Government backs down on transfers of Aboriginal children to adult prison, but transfers of non-Indigenous kids set to continue

The Andrews Government has today taken the extraordinary step and agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to Barwon maximum security adult prison.

The last minute settlement avoids an urgent Supreme Court case brought against the Government by the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service (VALS), who challenged the Government’s plan to lock up children in Barwon adult jail.

Wayne Muir, CEO of VALS, said that while this is an important outcome for protecting Aboriginal children, all children have the right to be safe.

“It’s critical that we’ve protected the rights of our children. Putting kids in an adult jail is dangerous. But to our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, who the Government is leaving to rot in the State’s worst adult prison, we stand by you,” said Mr Muir. 

“Aboriginal people know all too well what it is like to be harmed by Government policies. While we have an obligation to act in the best interests of our community and clients, children not covered by this case remain in danger. The Victorian Government must protect the rights of all children,” said Mr Muir.

Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is coordinating the legal team, said that the Government’s concession in relation to one group of children in no way excused its continued mistreatment of another.

 “The Andrews Government can’t just pick and choose which kids it wants to treat humanely. All children should be in a safe environment where they are given every chance to rebuild their lives,” said Ms Barson.

“I’ve been to see these kids at Barwon. They are in solitary confinement, pacing back and forth in their cells. They haven’t seen the sky in almost a week. It’s simply inexcusable to treat children in this way,” said Ms Barson.

“In this day and age there must be alternatives to putting children in the state’s most hardened adult jail – the same prison where notorious gangland criminal, Carl Williams, was murdered,” said Ms Barson.

For further comments or queries please contact:

Wayne Muir, Chief Executive Officer, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service: 0467 505 642

Ruth Barson, Director of Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre: 0417 773 037

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

About the case:

After recent incidents at Parkville Youth Detention Centre that left the Centre damaged, the Government announced its intention to transfer children to Barwon adult prison. This case was filed as an urgent injunction last Monday night, and was listed for urgent hearing tomorrow.  The case raised serious questions about the lawfulness of the Government’s actions and decisions. It examined whether the Government was acting in accordance with its obligations to children, and its obligations under the Charter of Human Rights. In the last week approximately 15 children have been transferred, with more transfers occurring daily.


Wayne Muir, Chief Executive Officer, Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and Ruth Barson, Director of Advocacy, Human Rights Law Centre will be taking questions on the announcement that the Victorian Government has agreed not to transfer Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children to Barwon maximum security adult prison.  

Date: Tuesday 29 November 2016
Time: 1:30pm
Location: On the steps of the Victorian Supreme Court, 210 William St, Melbourne