Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr Helen Szoke has responded to an interim report by the Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. Dr Szoke says that the report documents a wide variety of evidence which suggests that children have been appallingly mistreated, most of which are Aboriginal young people who find themselves in custody. She adds that the report is a damning indictment of a justice system that does not work for children that have been entrusted to its care. The reports description of the conditions children face is both harsh and bleak which is likely to leave children in the system more damaged than when they came in.
Over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention are chronically over represented which Dr Szoke says is a national disgrace. These children are 25 times more likely to be detained than non-indigenous juvenile offenders. She adds this is a crisis which has a devastating impact on the lives of young people and the country should be ashamed of itself. The crisis requires an urgent national plan of action.
Punitive rather than rehabilitative
Dr Szoke says the report is confirmation that the juvenile detention system is meant to punish instead of giving young offenders the chance to rehabilitate. She adds that Oxfam Australia is partnering with more than 100 organisations in urging Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to assume a leadership role and engage with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities so that immediate action can be taken to improve the country’s youth justice system
“Oxfam is urging the Federal Government to adopt the Change the Record Coalition’s ‘Blueprint for Change’, a concrete plan for the Federal, State and Territory Governments put together by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organisations to change the record on soaring Aboriginal imprisonment rates and high levels of violence. “