The Victorian Commissioners for Children and Young People, Liana Buchanan and Andrew Jackomos welcome the report of the Royal Commission into youth detention and child protection in the Northern Territory.
Brought about by coverage that revealed shocking mistreatment of children and young people at the Don Dale Youth Justice Centre, the Royal Commission has explored the deep links between the child protection and youth justice systems.
The Royal Commission’s work has been a landmark process that has looked beyond the abuses of Don Dale to reveal the sadly common stories of inappropriate child removal, poor service delivery and cultural ignorance in the service system. Those systemic failings have played a role in the unacceptable growth in the number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care and youth justice, not just in the Northern Territory but in all states and territories in Australia.
The Royal Commission describes a system that breached the human rights of children through regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment in detention.
In its recommendations, the Royal Commission also elevates the experiences of good work done in many jurisdictions. By hearing evidence from community leaders and experts nationally, and making their submissions public over the course of its inquiries, the Royal Commission has showed us there are initiatives throughout the country that can prevent child protection involvement from becoming a pathway to youth detention.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People Andrew Jackomos is proud to have given evidence to the Royal Commission in June 2017. In his evidence, Mr Jackomos discussed the challenges and failings in the provision of out-of-home care services for Aboriginal children in Victoria, which were identified in the Commission’s inquiries In the child’s best interests and Always was, always will be Koori children.
He also highlighted the positive work underway in Victoria to ensure Aboriginal communities, rather than government agencies are empowered to make decisions about the services for Aboriginal children in need of out-of-home care.
The findings and recommendations of the Northern Territory Royal Commission should be a warning for commentators and politicians about where harsh policies on youth offending lead us. This is particularly relevant in Victoria, where for the past 12 months we have heard constant calls and policies for tougher, more punitive approaches to children who offend.
The disturbing images of the Don Dale youth justice centre, and the harrowing accounts of the children and young people who were subjected to punishing conditions should remind us that getting tough is not the answer.
The youth justice system needs to acknowledge the evidence that links neglect, abuse and trauma with offending behaviour. This should inform a trauma-responsive, age appropriate and humane youth justice system.
All governments must pay heed to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission to ensure children and young people are given the best chance in life and the appalling treatment we witnessed from Don Dale is never repeated.
Luis Gonzalez: 03 8601 5293 | 0425 871 816