Amnesty slams Australia over in­dige­nous de­ten­tions

The China Post - - GUIDE POST -

The detention of in­dige­nous chil­dren has be­come a na­tional cri­sis in Australia, Amnesty In­ter­na­tional said on Tues­day, and de­manded the gov­ern­ment do more to stem what it termed a spi­ral­ing epi­demic.

A new Amnesty re­port, A Brighter To­mor­row, said Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der chil­dren were 26 times more likely to be jailed than their non-in­dige­nous coun­ter­parts.

It also noted that while in­dige­nous 10-to-17 year olds ac­count for just five per­cent of the Aus­tralian pop­u­la­tion, they com­prise 59 per­cent of those in pri­son in that age range.

“What’s more, this over-rep­re­sen­ta­tion is get­ting worse,” Amnesty Sec­re­taryGen­eral Salil Shetty told the Na­tional Press Club in Can­berra, point­ing to data from 2011 that showed in­dige­nous youths were 21 times more likely to be jailed.

The re­port high­lighted in­con­sis­ten­cies and gaps be­tween states and ter­ri­to­ries in col­lect­ing data about the youth jus­tice sys­tem, which it said was a bar­rier to al­low­ing a fuller re­sponse to the is­sue.

“That state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments are not even keep­ing or shar­ing proper re- cords on this detention is a scan­dal,” said Shetty.

The re­port rec­om­mended new laws to en­sure chil­dren are only locked up while await­ing crim­i­nal trial in ex­treme cases, that they re­ceive more legal as­sis­tance and that those un­der 17 are jailed only as a last re­sort.

It also urged Australia to adopt na­tion­ally a pro­gram known as Jus­tice Rein­vest­ment, cur­rently in a trial phase in the re­mote town of Bourke, in which po­lice, Abo­rig­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments work to­gether to pro­vide al­ter­na­tives to jail.

“Sadly, once th­ese chil­dren have been locked up with limited op­por­tu­ni­ties for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion... the like­li­hood is they will spend the rest of their lives caught in the re­volv­ing door of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem,” said Shetty.

“Australia has a long and tragic his­tory of re­mov­ing in­dige­nous chil­dren from their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. We will see an­other gen­er­a­tion lost to failed gov­ern­ment poli­cies un­less Aus­tralian gov­ern­ments get smarter about this and fast.”

Abo­rig­ines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years and are the na­tion’s most dis­ad­van­taged, with a much shorter life ex­pectancy than other Aus­tralians while suf­fer­ing dis­pro­por­tion­ate lev­els of im­pris­on­ment and so­cial prob­lems such as un­em­ploy­ment.

They are be­lieved to have num­bered around one mil­lion at the time of Bri­tish set­tle­ment in 1788, but there are now just 470,000 out of a to­tal pop­u­la­tion of 23 mil­lion.

Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der So­cial Jus­tice Com­mis­sioner Mick Gooda said the over rep­re­sen­ta­tion of in­dige­nous chil­dren in jail “has reached epi­demic pro­por­tions.”

“This is a na­tional emer­gency. This must change, ur­gently,” he said in a fore­word to the Amnesty re­port, partly blam­ing the on­go­ing le­gacy of col­o­niza­tion, sys­temic so­cial and eco­nomic dis­ad­van­tages and racism for the grow­ing prob­lem.

“We need an ap­proach that starts to ad­dress the un­der­ly­ing causes of crime and starts to di­vert re­sources away from im­pris­on­ment and into lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties,” he added.

Gooda ad­mit­ted there was no sil­ver bul­let so­lu­tion but said early in­ter­ven­tion and bet­ter com­mu­nity re­sponses were cru­cial.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Taiwan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.