Amnesty International Australia expressed deep concern over the Queensland Government’s youth justice amendments which passed Parliament last night.
The amendments undo years of hard-fought reforms to keep Indigenous kids out of the justice system and their passing is a devastating step backwards in addressing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in Australian jails.
“With the guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd this week, the US has finally reckoned with police accountability,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter, said. “But while this is a welcome step towards justice, in Australia, we have two jurisdictions – NT and QLD – that are essentially stepping away from that progress.
“Instead, they’re doubling down on punitive measures that have the effect not of addressing youth crime, but of punishing Indigenous kids, condemning them to the criminal justice system, and as we’ve seen in the past 30 years since the Royal Commission, there is no accountability in that system.
“The Royal Commission showed us there were systemic issues, but no action has been taken to address those systemic problems, such as not locking kids as young as 10 up, and using very effective, evidence-based and community-led diversion programs.
When are we going to stop picking on black kids in Australia? It has to stop. There are better solutions to these issues, but no-one benefits from kids having their childhoods stolen, because that’s what’s happening in the NT and QLD as we speak.Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights Lead, Nolan Hunter.
“When are we going to stop picking on black kids in Australia? It has to stop. There are better solutions to these issues, but no-one benefits from kids having their childhoods stolen, because that’s what’s happening in the NT and QLD as we speak.”
The Northern Territory currently has proposed amendments which will have similarly dire consequences for Indigenous kids in the Territory.
Amnesty International Australia is calling for an inquiry into these amendments which wind back the reforms made in the wake of 2017’s Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, and are a knee-jerk reaction to a perception of a youth crime wave which is not backed by evidence, which shows youth crime rates in the NT actually decreasing.