A recent report on youth justice from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare stated that Indigenous young people are still over-represented in youth justice supervision in each territory and state.
Despite only 5 percent of young people aged 10-17 being Indigenous, nearly half (49 percent) of the young people aged 10-17 who were under supervision on any average day were Indigenous.
The 2017-18 report also highlighted that Indigenous young people aged 10-17 were 17 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be under supervision.
In WA specifically, Indigenous young people were 27 times as likely to be in youth justice supervision than non-Indigenous young people.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson told The Guardian on June 3 he doesn’t believe it is systemic racism, but he is aware there are aspects of racism.
The Commissioner also said he supports community justice arrangements as alternatives to placing Indigenous young people in custody.
The report has resulted in calls from organisations such as Change the Record to raise the age of criminal responsibility to a minimum of 14.
“This research clearly demonstrates that raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 is necessary to end the over-incarceration of our children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids aged 10-13 years old are coming into the system at rates that show serious systemic flaws when compared with non-Indigenous kids,” said Change the Record Co-Chair Cheryl Axleby.
Change the Record’s other Co-Chair Damian Griffins said Australia should be ashamed the youth justice gap is widening but that it is not a surprise.
“There is no national justice target in Closing the Gap. We’ve continually called for national leadership to implement the solutions we’ve identified,” Mr Griffins said.
Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre Ruth Barson agreed with Change the Record’s call, adding that Australia is “lagging behind the rest of the world.”
“It’s time our governments raised the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years so that children are given the opportunity to thrive, with their families and in their communities,” Ms Barson said.
In a similar move, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has condemned the Northern Territory Government’s choice not to raise the age of criminal responsibility as part of a legislative amendment in the Territory.
“It is now over 12 months since the NT Government committed to raising the age of criminal responsibility of children from 10 to 12 and this delay is unacceptable,” said NT ALA President Michael Grove.
By Hannah Cross