Queensland investigation into and dismissal of youth justice staff must set the standard for all jurisdictions

In response to six staff members within Queensland’s Youth Justice Department being sacked amid dozens of cases of corruption, Amnesty International Australia is calling on the:

  • Queensland Government to provide redress to the children and their families who have suffered; and
  • for other states and territories to ensure that youth prisons are appropriately monitored and staff disciplined where appropriate.

Indigenous Rights Manager Tammy Solonec said: “Amnesty International commends the Queensland Government on following through with these investigations. It is a very serious situation when so many of the complaints relate to the excessive use of force against children.

“Youth justice staff have an incredibly important responsibility to keep children in their care safe. This thorough investigation shows these six staff have betrayed the children, and the community, and it is an important and just moment resulting in their sacking.

Throughout 2018 and 2019 Amnesty International conducted a series of Right to Information requests after hearing that children were being held in maximum security adult watch houses throughout Queensland and that their rights were not being upheld. 

“Our investigations showed over 2500 breaches of the human rights of children in Queensland just in the Brisbane City Watch House throughout 2018. It shows it is just the tip of the iceberg and that more must be done,” said Ms Solonec.

Amnesty is urging Australia to prioritise the implementation of the Optional Protocol on the Convention Against Torture to ensure that there is appropriate international oversight and so that children are not subjected to abuse in Australian prisons and detentions centres. 

Ms Solonec said: “The Queensland Government has made giant steps in funding prevention and diversion programs and amending the Youth Justice Act, and we are pleased to see these investigations being followed through with disciplinary action. However, all Governments of Australia must do more to keep kids out of prison where they are so vulnerable, including by raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.”

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Joel Clark is a Government Relations Adviser at Amnesty International Australia.