Joint media release: Services, not Sentences

QCOSS CEO Aimee McVeigh said yesterday’s announcement to further tighten youth justice laws will not prevent crime.

“The only way to reduce youth crime is to put in place the supports and programs that address the underlying issues faced by these children. The correct approach requires time, money and commitment. There are no shortcuts. The Government commenced this process with the implementation of the Atkinson Report, and they should continue with that strategy without these changes.”

CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service (ATSILS) in Queensland, Shane Duffy, said that the government’s plan to ‘crack down on youth crime’ ignores the need for greater investment in services.

“The Government should be focusing its efforts on investing in services that address the underlying causes of crime, namely social and economic disadvantage, not ramping up more punitive measures.”

Janet Wight, CEO of Youth Advocacy Centre said, “Crime is not confined to children, but we continue to demonise them despite youth crime consistently reducing over a number of years.

“Less than 1% of all 10-17 year olds in Queensland appear in court for offending in a year: of these, only 10% become entrenched in the system. We know the issues which lead to an increased risk of this happening – insecure housing, lack of access to mental health services and family supports, age-appropriate activities, and more. The proposals do not seek to address these.”

Save the Children Executive Director, Matt Gardiner, said that the community sector currently operates programs that properly support young people and keep them out of the criminal justice system.

“Our early intervention programs prevent crime. We need to take this seriously as a community and use things that work, not punitive measures that are shown to increase the likelihood of repeat offending. Let’s do more of what works.

“These programs have been evaluated, and they work. Our initiatives have reduced offending rates and kept young people off the street, and as a result of these programs and others, youth crime is at an all-time low in Australia,” said Mr Gardiner.

Act for Kids CEO, Dr Katrina Lines said, “Only long-term evidence-based solutions will address the root causes of youth crime in Queensland. We look forward to hearing from the State Government on how they will engage with our sector.”

Alvin Hava, General Manager of Young People Ahead – Youth Services in Mount Isa, said: “It’s vitally important that non-governmental organisations – especially community-controlled organisations – take the lead in supporting Government policy decision making.

“Youth justice policy should be grounded in truth through evidence from reports from the Queensland Productivity Commission, the Atkinson reports, as well as countless others. These reports outline how Government and communities can work together for a safer community for all Queenslanders”.

Ms McVeigh said, “We understand why Queenslanders want to see these problems solved. The community sector has the solutions and wants to work with the Queensland government to deliver supports and programs grounded in evidence and aimed at breaking cycles of recidivism connected with poverty and disadvantage.”

“Like every other Queenslander, young people enjoy human rights protections – including the rights to freedom of movement, privacy and non-discrimination.

“Our Human Rights Act also explicitly says that a child who has been convicted of an offence must be treated in a way that is appropriate for the child’s age. There is no evidence that these rights have been considered in this new announcement.”

10 February 2021 |Focus area: |Cohort: