New QLD Government must adopt strong youth justice agenda

The incoming Queensland Government must have a strong youth justice agenda that supports children to thrive in their communities, not be separated from their families in children’s prisons, said Amnesty International today, as it released ‘A Human Rights Agenda For The Next Qld State Government’.

The Human Rights Agenda is an 11-point plan for the incoming government to support Queensland children and families and ensure children’s rights are protected.

The Agenda is particularly relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who are 27 times more likely to be locked up than non-Indigenous children in Queensland. This is a higher rate of over-representation than the Australian average. Queensland imprisons children as young as 10 years old.

Children reaching their potential

“Whatever their political views, one thing all Queenslanders surely must agree on is that children must be supported to meet their potential,” said Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia. “But that isn’t happening for children being abused in harsh prison conditions, away from their families.”

“By adopting the Human Rights Agenda for Queensland, the incoming Government will take a courageous and significant step towards protecting the rights of children in Queensland, especially Indigenous children.”

Paul Toner, Queensland Branch President for Amnesty International Australia, said, “Protecting Queensland kids’ safety and hopes for their futures must be top priority for all candidates in the Queensland election. For too long, politicians have been putting children’s safety at risk with brutal, outdated punishment-based policies, that have been proven again and again not to work.”

The Agenda also calls for Queensland to adopt a Human Rights Act, to protect the rights of all Queenslanders.

Some of the points in the Human Rights agenda include:

*Queensland should adopt a Human Rights Act, which would enable the incoming Queensland Government to protect the human rights of all people in Queensland. It would legislate rights and obligations, promote a rights-based culture within our society, and help to foster fairer and more inclusive communities.

*The incoming Government must support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities to stay strong and together through funding holistic, Indigenous-run family support and services.

*The new Government must raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 12 years, and preferably to 14 years in line with international standards. Locking up kids as young as 10 is damaging for their development, places severe limitations on them reaching their potential and is a clear breach of international law. In addition, 17-year-olds must be immediately moved out of adult prisons, in line with legislation passed by Parliament.

*The incoming Government must end the abuse of children in prison and improve care facilities by committing to quickly implementing all recommendations of this year’s Independent Review into Children in Queensland Detention. This includes establishing an independent inspector of custodial services, one that is separate to government and in line with the United Nations Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture.

*The new Government should continue to support and expand community-led justice reinvestment projects in Queensland. Justice reinvestment is an approach that shifts money away from building and running more prisons, and into those communities where people are needing the most support in their lives, so that they don’t commit offences in the first place.

These programs and services would include those designed and run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

*The new Government should stop locking up children who haven’t yet been tried or sentenced. Queensland’s remand rates for kids are the highest in Australia, but these kids should not be in prison.

The full 11-point agenda is available here .