Community services have expressed shock, concern and distress at the comments made by the Queensland Police Union President Ian Leavers today.

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh says services statewide, including First Nations led organisations, are calling for the “disgraceful” comments to be called out, and for the Queensland Police Commissioner to properly address them.

Change the Record National Director Maggie Munn said Mr Leavers was playing with people’s lives.

“As a proud Gunggari person, I appeal to every Queenslander to see Ian Leavers’ comments for what they really are: a despicable power grab which divides and terrorises our communities. Less than six months ago there was bipartisan support for pathways to treaties, and now First Nations rights are up for a power grab,” Munn said.

“It’s clear to me that Ian is playing politics with people’s lives, our children’s lives – it’s a sad day when the pursuit of justice can become so politicised.”

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service CEO Shane Duffy also raised concerns.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people have been exposed to intergenerational trauma – which is proven to affect their neurological, psychological and physical development – high rates of exposure to domestic violence, neglect, overcrowded housing, homelessness, generational unemployment, complex health needs, identity confusion, and literacy and numeracy challenges due to interrupted or disengaged schooling,” Mr Duffy said.

“First Nations youth also have to contend with racial profiling in policing and the remnants of systemic racism, which contribute to their gross overincarceration. Mr Leavers’ comments today only fuel that culture.”

Queensland Director of 54 reasons, Save the Children’s Australian services delivery arm, Mena Waller said: As a state identified by Save the Children as being one of the worst offenders when it comes to violating the rights of children in youth justice facilities, it is deeply disturbing to see these outdated and dangerous perspectives espoused by a union boss.”

“Queensland’s ‘tough on crime’ approach does not work to change the life trajectories of some of the states most vulnerable young people. Evidence shows children who are incarcerated at a young age are far more likely to reoffend,” Ms Waller said.

“The answer instead lies in trauma informed and culturally appropriate early intervention services and diversionary approaches that strengthen families and communities, not blaming vulnerable children for the state’s own failures.”

St Vincent De Paul Society Queensland CEO Kevin Mercer said Vinnies had a long history of supporting First Nations Peoples and urged for greater unity in the community.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are overrepresented in many of our services, reflecting the challenges and disadvantages that they have experienced historically, and continue to experience,” Mr Mercer said.

“It’s crucial we work towards reconciliation and justice for First Nations Peoples, who experience a disproportionately higher risk of homelessness and poverty.”

McVeigh said Mr Leavers’ comments exposed a shocking attitude towards Queensland’s First Nations Peoples, towards the state’s history, and towards the truth.

“They are an affront to what First Nations Peoples have experienced and continue to experience in this state. They also expose a horrifying ignorance of what causes crime and are so misleading that they are potentially dangerous for our community at large,” McVeigh said.

“It is disgusting that these statements have come from a person representing police in this state.

“It is now crucial to hear from the Police Commissioner that this is not the attitude of the police service statewide, and that Mr Leavers’ comments will be properly addressed.”

26 October 2023