Catholic Religious Australia has written to the Queensland Government with grave concerns about its recent decision to suspend the state’s Human Rights Act to permit adult watch houses to be used as youth detention centres.
CRA said the Palaszczuk Government’s decision is at odds with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as the recommendations of the recently launched inaugural Queensland Child Rights Report (2023), which had emphasised the urgent attention needed to improve Queensland’s youth justice system.
“Abhorrent conditions in watch houses have been reported, denying these children proper access to outdoor spaces and to education, sometimes for weeks at a time, and in many cases for minor charges that they have not yet been convicted of, ” CRA president, Fr Peter Jones OSA, said.
“We are also aware that Queensland’s youth justice system disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander children.”
In its letter, CRA pointed out that the Queensland Child Rights Report (2023) had also identified that a lack of government services for children in remote and regional parts of Queensland is increasing the likelihood that these children will come into contact with the justice system.
CRA’s national director Anne Walker said Police and Corrective Services Minister Mark Ryan replied to CRA, emphasising that the “government wants to hold all offenders to account for the crimes they commit”.
“Children, however, should be afforded the right of a youth justice system that is primarily focused on prevention and rehabilitation,” Ms Walker said.
“The Queensland Government should be shifting its legislative focus and funding to prevent children from falling down a path of criminal activity in the first place, providing them with the necessary support and skills to thrive.”