The Supreme Court will today commence hearing the case against the Victorian Government to ensure no child is sent to Barwon maximum security adult jail.
The Human Rights Law Centre and Fitzroy Legal Service are bringing the case after the government two weeks ago agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to the prison.
Meghan Fitzgerald, lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service, said that all children have the right to be in a safe and proper environment.
“I’ve now been to Barwon prison to visit the children on multiple occasions. Their health is deteriorating. Many of these children come from very traumatized backgrounds. Being in this environment is damaging their chances of rehabilitation,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
There are currently up to 20 children held in Barwon adult jail. Many are on remand – waiting for their charges to be heard.
Initially held in solitary confinement, in the last few days the government has responded to the case by allowing the children out of their small cells for longer periods. The children still have no access to proper schooling or treatment programs. When they are allowed outside, they are handcuffed to and from the basketball court and the visitor’s centre.
Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the government should treat all children humanely.
“Sending children to Barwon prison was a bad decision to begin with – bad for the children and bad for community safety. The Andrews Government needs to go back to the drawing board and find an appropriate and safe place for children in its care,” said Ms Barson.
Save the Children Australia, which provides youth justice services around Australia, also leant its support to the application.
Director of Policy & Public Affairs, Mat Tinkler, said “It is completely inappropriate and potentially harmful for any young person to be held in an adult prison. Housing young people in adult facilities risks community safety.”
“The Andrews Government should abandon its ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric and invest more in early intervention programs that help young people through intensive long-term support. This is how to divert children away from crime and get a much better outcome for them and the community.”
The case argues that the government acted unlawfully in sending children to Barwon adult jail; that the government has failed to act in the best interests of children in its care; and that it is has breached Victoria’s Human Rights Charter.
For further comments or queries please contact:
Ruth Barson, Human Rights Law Centre: 0417 773 037
Meghan Fitzgerald, Fitzroy Legal Service: 0450 977 447
Mat Tinkler, Director Policy & Public Affairs, Save the Children: 0438 595 049
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre: 0419 100 519
MEDIA ALERT - PRESS CONFERENCE
Who: Ruth Barson, Human Rights Law Centre;
Meghan Fitzgerald, Fitzroy Legal Service;
and Mat Tinkler, Director Policy & Public Affairs, Save the Children
Date: Monday 12 December 2016
Location: On the steps of the Victorian Supreme Court, 210 William St, Melbourne