UNICEF: Victoria’s vulnerable children do not belong in a maximum security adult prison

Australia not meeting international standards to protect children in detention
29 November 2016 – UNICEF Australia is calling on the Victorian Government to continue its historical leadership towards a child-centred approach to youth justice, after a visit by the Victorian Children’s Commissioner raised concerns about conditions for youth detainees at the Barwon adult prison.
“Children do not belong in adult prison facilities, let alone a maximum security adult jail. As conditions in the Northern Territory have recently demonstrated to us again, punitive and control-based systems are costly, ineffective and extremely harmful to vulnerable youth,” said Amy Lamoin, Head of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia.
“The Commissioner for Children and Young People plays an important role to protect the best interests of children in Victoria, particularly vulnerable children, including those in detention facilities. It is essential that the Victorian Government take the advice of the Commissioner seriously and work productively with her to address these very valid concerns.”
“Mounting evidence shows that Australia is falling short of basic international standards to protect children in detention. Australia needs national standards and improved monitoring and oversight to ensure children are receiving the appropriate care.”
“The purpose of a youth justice system is to rehabilitate and reintegrate children who are found guilty of offences. This move will disrupt educational programs and expose children to an environment which is not tailored to their developmental needs, making it counter-productive to these ends.”
“We are concerned that some of the children being transferred are particularly vulnerable, making the need for a therapeutic environment with specially trained personnel all the more important.”
The incident at Parkville demonstrates the need for the Victorian Government to invest in safe, child-centred, community-based and small scale facilities, effective front-end preventative measures and de-escalation processes. It also demonstrates a need for greater monitoring and oversight.
“Youth detainees must be kept at Barwon prison for the shortest possible time and the Victorian Government must commit to a reasonable time limit for this placement. The wing housing the youth detainees must become a child-friendly space, with qualified youth workers and appropriate systems in place to support them.”
“Youth detainees should always be placed in an environment which provides for the effective rehabilitation of young people, staffed by qualified personnel and with access to child-specific services. Punitive measures continue a no-win cycle for children and the community.” added Ms Lamoin.
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
Follow UNICEF Australia on Facebook and Twitter