The Human Rights Law Centre gave evidence today at the Parliamentary Inquiry into Youth Justice Centres in Victoria.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director with the Human Rights Law Centre told the inquiry that the Victorian Government has an opportunity to rebuild a safe, humane, age-appropriate youth justice system.
“Victoria’s youth justice system has been neglected by successive governments. Underlying causes of the serious problems that have plagued the system include failing infrastructure, staff shortages, loss of expertise, overuse of lockdowns and a sharp increase in children on remand. The government must address these problems and focus on giving children in custody a pathway to reach their potential,” said Mr de Kretser.
Shahleena Musk, Senior Policy Advocate at the Human Rights Law Centre, drew parallels between her experience in the youth justice system in the Northern Territory and what she was observing in Victoria.
“Having worked to expose the abuse in Don Dale, I saw firsthand the mistreatment, mismanagement and dysfunction of that system. I came to work in Victoria at the start of this year and was disheartened to see a similarly punitive and harsh responses from government,” said Ms Musk.
Alina Leikin, lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre told the Inquiry of her experience visiting the boys who were unlawfully locked up at the Barwon maximum security adult prison around 30 times between November 2016 and May 2017.
“When we talk about our youth justice system, we are talking about children and young people, who have a whole life ahead of them. We must focus on rebuilding a system that respects their rights and provides genuine opportunities for them to become more engaged, hopeful and productive.” said Ms Leikin.
A copy of the HRLC’s submission to the inquiry is here.
For further comments or queries please contact:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519