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Abuse in QLD police watch-houses sparks calls to raise minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia

Cheryl Axleby Source: Supplied

Cheryl Axleby, is calling on the Queensland government to take immediate action to end the abuse of children.

The call comes after an ABC Four Corners report revealed details of the abuse of dozens of children aged between 10 and 17 while in detention in police watch-houses in Queensland.

Cheryl Axleby is the CEO of Aboriginal legal Rights Movement, National co-chair of NATSILS and Change the Record. She says she is shocked about the latest revelations of violations of children's rights by state authorities.

Watch-houses are described as single cell environments designed for adult inmates. In Queensland, juveniles are detained in these cells for extended periods in the absence of any contact with their families or the outside world.

Also, juveniles are subjected to multiple violations of their rights while detained in these cells,.

“We cannot stand by while children are being denied their rights. Reports of Queensland Police housing children with sex offenders, withholding food and medical treatment to children as young as 10 are unacceptable, " Cheryl Axleby said in a media statement.

"Some children have even had their fingers cut off. The Queensland Government must take immediate action to end these abuses.”

According to the co-chair of NATSILS, Aboriginal youth are detained on longer remand time than necessary across the country. She says this is unacceptable and has to stop immediately.

"We find that many juveniles are spending much more time than they would actually serve if sentenced. Many are getting penalties that wouldn’t normally result in them being incarcerated.”

Ms Axleby’s concerns and calls are echoed by human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Jesuit Social Services who are all renewing, yet again, their calls to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility in Australia.

The age of 14 is the average minimum age of criminal responsibility adopted by most countries around the world. Most experts and advocates argue that Australia should meet this global standard.

NATSILS is also calling on the Queensland Government to listen to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations.

“Our communities have the answers. These children should be in community, in homes and in schools. We’re talking about children’s lives and the Government must support them, our future knowledge holders,” Ms Axleby concluded.

"Now is the time to act. There are a lot of reports and recommendations from Royal Commissions seating on governments' desks. Now is the time to act."

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