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Kids in watch houses must trigger emergency response

Tuesday 14 May 2019

In response to the 4 Corners reporting on kids in adult watch houses. Michael Berkman Greens MP for Maiwar said:

“The reports on 4 Corners made me angry and sick.

“Kids as young as 10, mostly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids, are being held in adult watch houses - some for weeks at a time and as we’ve seen the conditions are appalling.

“The solutions won’t come overnight, but the government must launch an emergency response that actually addresses the root causes of criminalisation.

“First, the government needs to commit to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, rather than waiting on a non-existent national COAG process.

The Youth Justice strategy announced last year failed to commit to any immediate action to raise the age, despite the overwhelming advice from experts in the field and leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.

“Second, we need a moratorium on new youth prisons - we can’t solve over-incarceration by building new prison cells.

The government announced $176 million to build or expand two youth prisons at Wacol and Brisbane just last month.

“That kind of money would make a massive difference in communities where criminalisation is an issue.

“Thirdly and most importantly, for those kids behind bars in watch houses right now, and those in youth prisons who are on remand awaiting trial, we need an emergency response to get them out safely.

“That means housing every single one of them, and committing to 24/7 social support for those kids and families to get them out into the community.

“Often these kids are being kept in detention because they don’t have someone safe and stable to live, not because they’ve committed serious offences.

“I want to express my admiration for the front line service social service workers, and to applaud the steps forward the government has taken in their recent youth justice announcements, even given their spending on new youth prisons.


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