Responding to interim report of the Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory, Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said:
“The Royal Commission’s interim report documents a litany of evidence which has exposed the appalling mistreatment of children – most of them young Aboriginal people – in custody.
“The report is a damning indictment on a justice system that has failed children entrusted in its care at every turn. It describes a harsh and bleak detention system that is ‘likely to leave many children and young people more damaged’ than when they entered and which fails modern standards.
“While the commission’s inquiry focusses on the shocking treatment of children in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin, there have been similar allegations of abhorrent abuse in other facilities.
“The chronic over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention is a national disgrace. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 25 times more likely to be sent to detention than non-Indigenous young people.
“It is a crisis which is devastating lives and should be a source of deep national shame. It is a crisis which demands an urgent national plan of action.
“Today’s interim report has confirmed that the NT juvenile detention system is punitive and not rehabilitative. It has also noted the message from Aboriginal people, who feel disengaged and powerless in decisions affecting their children and communities.
“Oxfam Australia has today joined more than 100 organisations in urging Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to take a leadership role and work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to take immediate action to improve Australia’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.
“Setting meaningful justice targets and investing in community-led early intervention and diversion programs are among the first steps which could be taken immediately to address these failings.
“When the commission completes its task and hands down its findings, it is vital that governments do not let this report become yet another gathering dust on a shelf and commit to its recommendations.
“The time is well overdue to break the cycle and change the record for good.”
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