‘We can’t let this report gather dust’

Coalition members at the Free to be Kids launch. Pic: Nate Dukes.

A plan to overhaul Australia’s youth justice system prepared by a coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations has been tabled in Federal Parliament.

The ‘Free to Be Kids: National Plan of Action’ was tabled by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert on Tuesday.

The eight-point plan by the Change the Record coalition aims to end the abuse and over-representation of Indigenous children in jail and follows the damning final report of the NT Royal Commission.

“Now that the National Plan of Action has been tabled in the Federal Parliament, we urge Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the Federal Government to take action on the recommendations of the Royal Commission, for a brighter future to make a difference for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” Change the Record co-chair Antoinette Braybrook said.

“We can’t let this report be yet another inquiry to gather dust on the desks of politicians.”

Free To Be Kids called on Mr Turnbull to work through the Commonwealth Organisation of Australian Governments to reform state and territory laws that breached children’s rights; to support children, families and communities to stay together; and to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14.

It also said children who were not sentenced should not be kept in jail, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled legal and support services needed to be properly funded and abusive practices in prisons needed to end.

Targets should also be set to end the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison and the collection and use of data needed to be improved, it said.

While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up less than six per cent of children aged 10–17 years, they make up 54 per cent of children in prison.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls are also far more likely to be in prison than non-Indigenous girls and their needs are often overlooked.

“We cannot allow this national tragedy to continue,” the Plan of Action document states.

“We need national leadership to drive change across the country.

“The Change the Record Coalition calls on the Federal Government to adopt and report on this
eight-point National Plan of Action to end the abuse and over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in prison.”

 

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