The move would bring Queensland in line with the rest of Australia, and in agreement with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Labor government has been under increasing pressure to make changes to their legislation, after Amnesty International released footage last month of an Indigenous detainee being restrained and forced to wear a helmet at a Brisbane jail in 2013.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said there were capacity and safety issues that had contributed to the complexity of the problem. "For too long it's been in the too-hard basket. Not anymore," Ms Palaszczuk says.
National Director of Amnesty International Australia, Claire Mallinson, welcomed today’s announcement, calling it “a win for children’s human rights.”
“This historic move has been 24 years in coming... Children deprived of their liberty should be held in conditions appropriate for their age. We welcome that vulnerable children will no longer be held in harsh adult prisons,” says Mallinson.
Amnesty International released a report last week calling for 17-year olds to be immediately transferred into age-appropriate facilities.
The report pressed for the minimum age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 12 years old, in line with international standards, and for Queensland to appoint an independent inspector of places of detention. It also recommended further funding and support for Indigenous-led solutions to keep Indigenous children out of detention and in their communities.
Queensland is the only state in Australia to treat 17-year olds as adults in the criminal justice system. This can mean more severe sentencing options, less access to basic needs and education, and different prison conditions.
A new juvenile justice facility may need to be built in Queensland after today's decision. Adding 17-year olds into the system would mean an extra 48 inmates, and a new facility may be needed to separate the oldest inmates from the youngest.
Courts will continue to place 17-year-olds in adult jails until the proposed law is in place.