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Queensland Government’s plan to allow for the ongoing detention of children in adult facilities another strike in growing list of child rights violations

The Government’s latest proposal shows that the youth justice system in Queensland is broken and requires urgent reform.
24 August 2023

The Queensland Government risks becoming a repeat offender for child rights violations following its decision to override its own Human Rights Act for the second time in just six months, Save the Children and 54 reasons said today.

Queensland law currently requires that children being detained in a police watch house be moved to a youth facility “as soon as practicable” – an approach that is broadly in line with human rights principles that children should never be detained with adults.

However, last minute amendments introduced by the Government to Parliament on 23 August, without consultation or Parliamentary scrutiny, will allow children to be imprisoned in adult watch houses indefinitely, directly violating children’s rights and requiring the Human Rights Act to be suspended.

Mena Waller, Queensland State Director for 54 reasons, which delivers Save the Children’s services in Australia, said that the move is reminiscent of the approach in Western Australia, where a cohort of young offenders continue to be housed in adult facilities. Those practices have been criticised by the United Nations.
Our research earlier this year found that Queensland, WA and the NT were the worst offenders when it comes to violating the rights of children in youth justice settings. This latest proposal would take the State even further backwards.

“The Queensland Government risks becoming a repeat offender for child rights violations, even as it claims to be taking a tough stance on law and order. There is a deep irony in a government taking a punitive and restrictive approach to youth justice whilst simultaneously modelling a willingness to repeatedly ignore their own laws.

“What we’re seeing is a dangerous cascade of child rights violations in Queensland. The government itself acknowledges that its decision earlier this year to suspend the human rights act and criminalise breach of bail for young people is leading to overflowing prisons. In response, the government now wants to again suspend human rights protections, raising considerable concerns about the likely harm that will be caused to Queensland children, especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are over-represented in custody.

“This new development shows that the Queensland Government’s approach to youth justice is not working, and the system is broken. Rather than making the community safer, all the Government is achieving is locking up more and more children, which research shows significantly increases the likelihood of further offending.
“It is not too late for the Government to change course and take a rights-based approach to youth justice that will not only safeguard the wellbeing of children in the justice system, but genuinely contribute to improved community safety. The evidence is clear about what works: diversion, rehabilitation, and addressing the root causes of youth offending – including poverty, family violence and lack of access to education and disability and mental health services.

"Children should not be imprisoned, especially not in adult facilities. Queensland must reverse its course, recognise the vulnerability of these children, and work with experts, families and children themselves to adopt a comprehensive response that prioritises alternatives to detention, investment in trauma-informed treatment, and upholding international human rights standards.”


MEDIA CONTACT: Mala Darmadi on 0425562113 or


  • In April, Save the Children and 54 reasons released Putting children first: A rights respecting approach to youth justice in Australia, a report that detailed widespread child rights abuses in Australia's youth justice system.

  • 54 reasons, Save the Children’s Australian service delivery arm, works in almost 200 communities and locations in every Australian state and territory. 54 reasons delivers quality services to children and families to support child development, diverts young people from the justice system, responds to domestic and family violence, and amplifies children’s voices and participation in decision making.  

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