Prime Minister Turnbull’s announcement of a Royal Commission into the conditions in Northern Territory youth detention is welcome, following last night’s shocking Four Corners program depicting the torture and abuse of incarcerated children. In setting the terms of reference the Prime Minister should consult with Indigenous and youth organisations in the Northern Territory.
However, Mr Turnbull must go further: “While a Royal Commission is extremely important, the Australian Government doesn’t need to wait for a Royal Commission to tell it what it already knows: The Northern Territory Government has failed to protect children under its care. Children in NT youth detention remain at risk and they need access to immediate care and support” said Julian Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.
“Children in NT youth detention remain at risk and they need access to immediate care and support.”
Julian Cleary, Amnesty International Australia
To ensure the safety of detained children and prevent this from ever happening again the Federal Government should put in place a national mechanism to monitor all places of detention Australia-wide. This mechanism is already available to the government – it’s called the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT).
The Australian Government must immediately ratify OPCAT, which would ensure independent monitoring of places of detention – including youth detention facilities. Under the auspices of OPCAT, the Federal Government should establish a National Preventative Mechanism to monitor all places of detention in Australia.
“The Australian Government has said it is considering ratifying OPCAT, but the rights of vulnerable children in detention need protection immediately,” said Julian Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.
“The Australian Government has said it is considering ratifying OPCAT, but the rights of vulnerable children in detention need protection immediately.”
“As distressing as the Four Corners footage was, none of the allegations were new. All levels of Government have known for years about the treatment of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. What’s more, allegations of rights violations have not only been made in the NT, but in every state and territory in the last five years.”
The Turnbull Government also must also adopt national Justice Targets as part of the Closing The Gap framework. Setting national Justice Targets will set the national agenda and provide a concrete goal for reducing the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the justice system, both in detention and as victims of crime.
“From today, ratifying OPCAT and setting National Justice Targets will demonstrate Mr Turnbull’s commitment to urgently protecting children in detention.”