Responding to allegations about the degrading and horrific abuse of children in detention in Queensland, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“The reports which have emerged today of the abhorrent treatment of children in two detention centres in Queensland come less than a month after the ABC exposed similarly cruel practices at the Don Dale facility in Darwin.
“The revelations are evidence of a problem which has a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and extends beyond the Northern Territory. It should be the source of deep national shame.
“It is evidence of a systemic problem which needs a national response and demands the Federal Government show leadership by adopting the Change the Record Coalition’s concrete plan for addressing the soaring rates of imprisonment of Indigenous people.”
The allegations of repeated and demoralising mistreatment of children in detention at two Queensland detention centres have been reported by the ABC after Amnesty International Australia obtained more than 1000 pages of documents under freedom of information laws.
“The treatment of the boys at the Northern Territory facility prompted the Federal Government to announce a Royal Commission, but deep concerns remain about the need for a real commitment to change the record on the over-imprisonment of young Indigenous people,” Dr Szoke said.
“The Royal Commission into the Don Dale allegations should be expanded on a tiered approach. The initial inquiry should look at the specific problems at Don Dale and report quickly, but it should then continue to look at the broader issues around youth incarceration across the nation, with a particular focus on Indigenous young people.
“The cruel irony that this series of reports and a national inquiry into the abhorrent treatment of children comes during the 25th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody is an indictment on Australian governments.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people are 24 times more likely to be in detention. In one of the Queensland detention centres featured in today’s reports, Indigenous young people make up 89 per cent of the facility’s population.
“The Change the Record Coalition’s blueprint urges a whole of government strategy, a working partnership with Indigenous communities and justice targets to reduce the disturbing over-representation of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people behind bars.
“The evidence of an alarming cycle of completely unacceptable abuse of children whose human rights are being violated requires urgent action.”
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