A coalition of civil society and community service organisations have condemned Queensland Government’s proposed amendments to the Child Protection Act that would see the human rights of children suspended so that they can be locked away in adult prisons.

“These amendments will not make Queensland communities safer,” said Aimee McVeigh, QCOSS CEO, in a direct repudiation of the Premier’s justification for introducing the legislation.

“Queenslanders should not have to choose between community safety and the legal rights of children. As a sophisticated society, we should be able to do both.

“The Queensland Government has failed to put in place adequate systems that support early intervention for children who need it and that work to make our communities safe. Evidence shows us that the younger a child is when they are detained, the more likely they are to go on and commit offences. Watch houses are not an appropriate solution.

“We urgently need an alternative to the justice system for children under the age of 14 years old.”

Katherine Hayes, CEO Youth Advocacy Centre, said: “Queenslanders should be dismayed that the government is once again dispensing with the human rights of our most vulnerable citizens. These are not bikies or terrorists: they are the kids that have been failed by all of the adults in their lives, and a significant number of them have been in contact with the child safety system.

“The government is continuing to fail the people of Queensland by refusing to come up with a coherent plan to intervene early and divert these young people from a path of crime. The government must do better.”

Mena Waller, Queensland State Director for 54 reasons said: “What we’re seeing is a dangerous cascade of child rights violations in Queensland. This new development shows that the Queensland Government’s approach to youth justice is not working, and the system is broken.

“Rather than making the community safer, all the Government is achieving is locking up more and more children, which research shows significantly increases the likelihood of further offending.

“The evidence is clear about what works: diversion, rehabilitation, and addressing the root causes of youth offending – including poverty, family violence and lack of access to education and disability and mental health services.”

Genevieve Sinclair, CEO YETI, said: “This morning in the Cairns watchhouse there are a number of young girls who have been there for 8 days. On Monday there were 13 children in the watchhouse, which was at 142 per cent capacity. This is not safe for anyone.

“Adult watchhouses are not appropriate places to detain children. The system is completely broken by an approach that seeks to lock all children up prior to them being sentenced.”

The coalition includes YFS and HUB Community Projects.

24 August 2023