Queensland review confirms that youth justice system is failing children

Queensland review confirms that youth justice system is failing children

An independent review of youth detention centres in Queensland has shown that youth detention systems in Australia have lost their way the Human Rights Law Centre said.

The inquiry was launched after a scathing Amnesty Report and graphic footage was aired of serious mistreatment of children within the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Queensland. Over 80 recommendations have been made to bring the Queensland youth justice system in line with international law and to respond to the individual developmental needs of each child.

Shahleena Musk, Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the review reminds us that just because a child is incarcerated, their human rights and entitlements must not be ignored.

“Time and time again governments around Australia are being told that failing to consider the welfare needs of children in detention has damaging and long lasting effects. These findings are disturbingly similar to what we’re seeing from around the country, from the inquiry into youth justice in Victoria to the evidence coming out of the Royal Commission in the Northern Territory. It’s clear that mistreating children is not a solution,” said Ms Musk.

The review highlights significant flaws around the use of force, restraints, isolation and denial of access to educational materials. It calls for internal policies to be brought into line with the legislation and for staff training and practices that comply with the law and preserve the human rights of children. In particular there is a need for training and policies that ensure staff use alternatives to force, restraints and isolation in response to situations.

“Excessive use of isolation and restraints must be limited to the most exceptional circumstances, rather than being used on a routine basis. Programs and services within youth detention must be focused on helping young people get back on track. No child should be denied educational or cultural programs as a form of punishment. We commend the Queensland government for its commitment to implement all of the recommendations in this report,” said Ms Musk.

The review has recommended that the Queensland Government set up an independent watchdog to ensure transparency and accountability. This is consistent with the Federal Government’s commitment to implement the international torture prevention treaty.

“Based on the mistreatment occurring across the state documented by this review, now more than ever an independent oversight body is desperately needed to prevent human rights breaches and systemic injustices across all detention centres and prisons. What happens to children behind bars should matter to all of us. Treating children cruelly is not the answer,” said Ms Musk.

The HRLC’s submission to the inquiry can be read here.

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Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications and Media: 0419 100 519