UNICEF Australia statement on 4 Corners juvenile justice story

UNICEF Australia is deeply concerned by the inhumane treatment of children in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre documented by Four Corners.  The use of prolonged periods of solitary confinement, strip searches and an unjustifiable use of force may amount to torture by the Government responsible for their care.  Based on our global experience, we know that this treatment has severe consequences for children and commonly causes anxiety, depression, insomnia, psychosis, extreme paranoia, cognitive delays and psychosis. 

The Australian Government is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Covenant on the Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).  International law sets clear guidance on matters relating to children and detention.  Australia’s obligations require that children should only ever be detained in juvenile justice detentions strictly as a last resort measure and all decisions regarding children must take their best interests into account. Children should always be treated with dignity and respect.
UNICEF Australia welcomes Prime Minister Turnbulls’ announcement of a Royal Commission into the Treatment of Children in Juvenile Detention System in the Northern Territory.  Based on UNICEF’s global experience in juvenile justice settings, we know that institutional environments are definitively unsafe for children.   

Children who come into contact with the law must be treated as children first and foremost.  In addition to the Royal Commission UNICEF Australia calls on the Australian Government and state and territory governments to action the following:
  • Revisit the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) to increase oversight and monitoring of juvenile justice settings
  • Adequately fund justice reinvestment strategies, the early intervention in the lives of children to address the root causes that drive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children into custody
  • Ensure access to justice for children who have experienced acts that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of punishment
  • Ensure that children who are detained in juvenile detention settings in the Northern Territory have access to adequate psychosocial support and counselling.
Children in the juvenile justice system have often experienced significant disadvantage. They are more likely to have experienced social and economic disadvantage, family violence, child abuse or neglect, low educational attainment or have an intellectual disability. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 10-17 were, on average, 26 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in detention. There is no avenue for rehabilitation of children in institutions with cruel and degrading treatment. 
UNICEF Australia's submission to the National Children's Commissioner on the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).

Australian Child Rights Progress Report: A report on 25 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Australia.

For further information and interviews, please contact:
Nicole Mackey, UNICEF Australia, 0403 964 334, nmackey@unicef.org.au
Nicole Lawrence, UNICEF Australia, 0419 748 624, nlawrence@unicef.org.au
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF Australia and its work visit: www.unicef.org.au
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