• CCTV footage of inmates being held at Brisbane Watch House. (ABC)Source: ABC
New bill passes through Queensland parliament to improve safety of juveniles in detention, but Indigenous rights advocates say more can be done.
Shahni Wellington

26 Aug 2019 - 10:04 AM  UPDATED 26 Aug 2019 - 10:04 AM

The Youth Justice and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 was passed through Queensland parliament on Friday, in a step towards ensuring children are no longer kept in police watch houses.

The changes support young people not being detained on remand in the facilities other than for normal arrest and processing.

According to the Queensland government, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up 78 per cent of children sentenced to detention, while only 8 per cent of children aged 10 to 17 in Queensland are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

Amnesty International has supported the amendments, but their Indigenous Rights Advocate, Joel Clark, says there is still a long way to go.

“Today is a win for all the young people and their families who have suffered through a broken system,” Mr Clark said.

“The government can’t take back that suffering, but they can make sure it never happens again.”

The laws will require detained young people to be brought before a court within 24 hours of being arrested.

The changes also prioritises releasing a child on bail, except in some circumstances, such as if there is an unacceptable risk they will commit more crimes, endanger others' safety or interfere with witnesses. 

In May this year, ABC News aired a shocking report exposing the conditions and the number of children detained in the Brisbane City Watch House.

Amnesty International is now re-iterating calls to raise the age of criminal responsibility, as recommended by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. 

“The Government’s commitment to keeping kids out of prison will only be proven when they raise the age of criminal responsibility from ten to at least fourteen,” Mr Clark said.

 “Some of the kids in detention haven’t even been found guilty.

“Fixing Queensland’s youth bail system will mean kids will only be detained as a last resort, which will reduce the numbers held in watch houses.”

As part of the Queensland Government’s Youth Justice Strategy Action Plan, one stated aim over the next two years is to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities to address the over-representation of children in the criminal justice system.

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