QCOSS does not support the Queensland Government’s proposed amendments to the Youth Justice Act.
Our position is clearly articulated in a joint media release that we countersigned with our members the Youth Advocacy Centre, Save the Children Australia, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, Act for Kids and Young People Ahead. The collective voice of these organisations reveals clear and deep concern about this proposed law reform.
Our position is also informed by the broader community services sector. On Tuesday 9 March, we convened a webinar about the Bill that was attended by participants across Queensland who work in youth justice and who, like the general public, hold legitimate concerns about public and community safety. During the webinar we conducted a human rights assessment of the Bill and sought feedback from participants about the Bill.
The target group for this law reform proposal are ‘the most serious recidivist youth offenders’ – the 10% – nearly 400 children who persistently offend in Queensland. Research consistently shows that these children experience profound social disadvantage including extreme poverty, histories of familial offending, exposure to family violence, unstable accommodation or homelessness, alcohol and substance misuse and disrupted education. Many are ‘cross-over kids’ who enter the youth justice system after first having contact with the child protection system.
A disproportionate number are Indigenous. These are the most vulnerable of all Queensland children caught up in the juvenile justice system.
The children who are targeted by the Bill should not be treated as hardened criminals. They should be provided with specific, targeted, intense and sustained services and supports to help to address the underlying causes of their behaviour.