The Prime Minister must urgently end the abuse of children in youth detention across Australia by focussing on prevention and rehabilitation, Amnesty International said as more serious allegations of mistreatment have emerged, this time in Canberra.
Former staff, government officials and detainees of Bimberi Youth Detention Centre have unveiled concerns in The Canberra Times about verbal racial abuse towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other culturally diverse children, as well as incidents involving alleged physical abuse.
“There is a mountain of evidence right around Australia of children being abused and having their human rights violated in youth detention, which must be stopped.”
Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner.
“There is a mountain of evidence right around Australia of children being abused and having their human rights violated in youth detention, which must be stopped,” said Roxanne Moore, Indigenous Rights Campaigner.
“This culture of abuse and secrecy is much bigger than the Northern Territory. The revelations of potential misuse of force, restraints and racial abuse of children in Canberra follow closely behind findings from a Queensland Independent Review just last week of children being hogtied, and deprived of food and medicine as punishment.”
Many of these children experiencing abuse behind bars are Indigenous children, who are 25 times more likely to be locked up.
“Don Dale, Cleveland, Barwon, Bimberi – how many more children have to suffer before Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes action to overhaul Australia’s ‘injustice’ system?”
“Don Dale, Cleveland, Barwon, Bimberi – how many more children have to suffer before Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes action to overhaul Australia’s ‘injustice’ system?” said Roxanne Moore.
The ACT Government has responded that the allegations are being investigated, and the ACT Human Rights Commission is currently undertaking several investigations into use of force and strip-searching practices, due to report later in 2017.
The revelations in Canberra come as the hearings of the Northern Territory Royal Commission into Youth Detention wrap up and just after the release of further disturbing findings from the Independent Review into Youth Detention in Queensland. There is also a Parliamentary Inquiry underway in Victoria and reports expected from oversight bodies in Western Australia, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
Communities have the answers
Dylan Voller, who was hooded and strapped to a chair in solitary confinement in Don Dale in the Northern Territory, last night appeared on ABC’s Q&A calling for Indigenous-led rehabilitation programs rather than detention. Dylan has been attending Bushmob, an Aboriginal organisation focussed on rehabilitating young people through work with animals and connection to culture.
“Why can’t we have more detainees from the juvenile centre to go there [to Bushmob] where they can work with horses and learn to build instead of sitting in a cell with no rehabilitation?” said Dylan Voller.
“Reports and inquiries dating back to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991 have highlighted that Government needs to listen to and fund Indigenous-led prevention and diversion programs,” said Roxanne Moore.
“Enough is enough, the need for change is clear, it’s time for Prime Minister Turnbull to overhaul the current system in favour of a national approach supporting and strengthening children, families and communities.”