AMNESTY International Australia has raised its concerns with Queensland’s Premier about proposed changes to the Youth Justice Act in Queensland, which will punish already disadvantaged children.
The proposals announced last month would remove the emphasis on detention as a last resort in sentencing protocols for young people and remove the focus on diversionary measures that could help keep children out of detention.
This is in direct conflict with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which states the arrest, detention and imprisonment of young people should only be used as a last resort.
The organisation has written to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman to raise these serious concerns before the proposed measures are reportedly voted on in State Parliament on February 11.
“This proposal goes against international standards for protecting children, directly opposes the best interests of the child and contravenes major human rights standards,” Louise Allen, Government Relations Manager at Amnesty International Australia, said.
“The 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Custody recommended that arrest and imprisonment should be a last resort for indigenous youth.
“With the majority, or 63 per cent of young people, in detention in Queensland being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, these changes will clearly negatively impact an already vulnerable community.
“The changes would undermine the fundamental proposition that the best interests of the child are paramount and should be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children.
“International human rights law also makes it imperative for relevant governments to develop non-custodial measures within their legal systems to provide other options and reduce the use of juvenile imprisonment.”
“We are also concerned about the concept of naming and shaming of repeat offenders.
“Not only would this breach the established principle that the privacy of juveniles should be respected during all stages of criminal and judicial proceedings, such a measure would lead to the erosion of rules around protecting a child from stigmatisation,” Louise Allen added.
Amnesty International is calling for Queensland to remove the bills from the debating schedule on February 11 and ensure that any future changes proposed are open to public scrutiny and discussion.