Only around one in three Australians (36%) think the Turnbull Government is doing enough to protect kids in children’s prisons from abuse. This is the finding of a ReachTEL poll commissioned by Amnesty International, ahead of Friday’s release of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory report.
The poll also revealed that two thirds of Australians believe the Federal Government has an overarching responsibility for the crisis of soaring overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system, and should lead national action to end this.
“Prime Minister Turnbull’s government has been passing the buck to the states and territories, claiming youth justice is not a Federal issue – despite Indigenous children being 25 times more likely to be locked up than non-Indigenous kids, and abuses being revealed in children’s prisons across Australia.” said Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.
“But now the results are in: according to this poll, Australians can see the youth justice system has an unfair impact on Indigenous kids, and they want the Federal Government to lead national change.”
Unfair, abusive system
In the ReachTEL poll, only 35.6% of respondents agreed with the question, “Do you agree or disagree that the Federal government is doing enough to address the abuse of children in prison?”
However, 62% of respondents agreed with the question, “Do you agree or disagree that the Federal Government has an (overarching) responsibility to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system?” And 63% agreed with “Do you agree or disagree that the Federal Government should lead national action to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system?”
“The Change The Record coalition and Indigenous leaders have long been calling for reform of this unfair and abusive youth justice system, not only in the NT but all over the country. It is up to Prime Minister Turnbull to work with the states and territories to overhaul it,” said Roxanne Moore.
Australians support Indigenous-led programs
The poll revealed that two thirds of Australians also believe the Government should fund more prevention and rehabilitation programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, run by Indigenous people.
“Here in the NT, Indigenous-led programs like BushMob are having impressive results in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families. Indigenous-led programs like these all over Australia need Government funding so they can keep making progress with their kids and communities.”
“Locking up kids as young as 10 in harsh prisons only traumatises them at a young and vulnerable age. Our children should be supported to live up to their potential – with their families, in their communities.”
The research, carried out by ReachTEL, surveyed 2,289 respondents. Other key results were:
*An overwhelming majority, over 77%, agreed there should be independent inspectors in all states and territories with full access to children’s prisons, who can monitor and report on abuses. Amnesty International is calling for this as part of the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture, which the Federal Government has committed to ratifying by the end of this year.
*70% of respondents agreed that Indigenous children are overrepresented in prison compared with non-Indigenous children, because while they make up only 6% of the total population of kids, over half of all kids in prison are Indigenous.
*44% of respondents thought the Federal Government is not doing enough to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system, compared to 41% who thought enough is being done. However, in answering a subsequent question, 63% of respondents agreed the Federal Government should lead national action to end the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the criminal justice system.
The survey was conducted by ReachTEL on the night of 30 October 2017 on behalf of Amnesty International (Australia) using an automated telephone based survey system among 2,289 respondents. The data has been weighted to reflect the population age and gender distribution as provided by the ABS. Telephone numbers and the person within the household were selected at random. The margin of error is +/- 3.4%.