Save the Children has warned that children should never be detained alongside adults, following media reports that an Aboriginal boy with an intellectual impairment was held for several days in the Brisbane police adult watch house.
Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds said children should only be detained as an absolute last resort, and never in adult facilities or alongside adults.
“It is deeply concerning that children, particularly those with intellectual impairments or disabilities, continue to be locked up in facilities designed for the most hardened adult criminals,” Mr Ronalds said.
“Prison is no place for a child. Instead of jailing children we should be fixing a system that is very clearly broken, and providing these children with support and services to address their underlying issues.
“Children with disabilities in particular need extra care and support when they come into contact with law enforcement.
“We know that criminalising children disproportionately harms those who are already the most disadvantaged – especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.”
This follows revelations aired on ABC’s Four Corners program in May, showing children as young as 10 being held in maximum security watch-houses in Queensland – sometimes for weeks on end – in facilities normally reserved for some of the most dangerous adult offenders.
“It should be a matter of national priority that Australia raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14. No 10-year-old should ever be imprisoned,” Mr Ronalds said.
Save the Children has extensive firsthand experience running programs across Australia that demonstrate how early intervention, diversion and rehabilitative approaches can change the trajectory of child’s life forever.
Save the Children’s Mobile Youth Vans in Queensland support and engage some of Australia's most vulnerable, at-risk and hard-to-reach children through music, digital media and sport. The program also operates as an engagement service that gets young people off the streets and reduces anti-social behaviour at night.
The organisation’s Out Teach program targets children who have already interacted with the criminal justice system. Piloted with great success in Tasmania, the program has now been expanded to Victoria. Meanwhile the Youth Partnership Project in Western Australia brings together police, government agencies and community organisations to support children with complex needs.
For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937