SYDNEY, Friday 17 November 2017
UNICEF Australia welcomes the findings and recommendations, released today, by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, and urges a comprehensive implementation by all states and territories within committed time-frames.
“These are issues of national importance – we now call for leadership and investment by the federal, state and territory governments to take up these recommendations and reform Australia’s youth justice and child protection systems,” said Amy Lamoin, Director of Policy and Advocacy for UNICEF Australia. “Across all states and territories, there have been over 12 reviews into practices and conditions in youth detention. Now that we have done the listening, must commit to action.
“Not only is it absolutely essential that we honour the children and families that have shared their stories of mistreatment, disempowerment and denial of access to essential services, but we must commit to ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes of the past,” she said.
Ms Lamoin said that an ongoing failure to listen to and act with children and Aboriginal communities lay at the core of so many of the issues addressed by the Northern Territory Royal Commission - we arrived at this situation because we failed to listen to Aboriginal children and their families.
“Our state and territory juvenile justice and child protection systems need wholesale reform and long-term bipartisan cooperation,” she said. “We should take a child rights based approach to this, which would mean we listen to children, make decisions in their best interests and support their connection to their families, culture and country.
“Acting upon the recommendations in this manner would go a long way toward supporting empowerment of both children and Aboriginal communities.”
Ms Lamoin observed that the Commission has made a clear finding that children and young people were subjected to “regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment”. The detention system “failed to comply with basic binding human rights standards in the treatment of children and young people. ”These findings warrant a swift and decisive response to prevent any reoccurrence in institutionalized settings.
“For the children who have endured these experiences, it is essential that they have access to comprehensive psycho-social support and remedy,” Ms Lamoin said. “In order to ensure this situation does not repeat into the future, implementation of a national preventative oversight mechanism.”
UNICEF Australia particularly welcomes the recommendation for a new Commission for Children and Young People with expanded powers and resources.
With Australia recently appointed as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, and soon to appear before the Committee on the Right of the Child for international treaty reporting, Ms Lamoin said a commitment to the full implementation of the Commission’s recommendations would provide a meaningful demonstration that our governments are taking their responsibilities very seriously.
UNICEF works worldwide to ensure that children are detained as a last resort.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.au
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