Monday 4 September 2023 – for immediate release
Recommendations on child protection, out-of-home care and youth justice handed down this morning by the Yoorrook Justice Commission could be life-changing for Aboriginal children and young people, said Meena Singh, Victoria’s Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People.
‘The Yoorrook Justice Commission’s comprehensive report and recommendations come at a time of great optimism and change for the Victorian Aboriginal community, with a newly elected First People’s Assembly and preparation for Treaty negotiations,’ said Commissioner Singh.
‘I agree with Yoorrook that the systems responding to the needs of Aboriginal children and young people are broken. The systems that see our children and young people move into child protection, out-of-home care and youth justice in the first place must also be addressed.
‘To ensure self-determination, it is vital the implementation of these recommendations centres the voices of Aboriginal children, young people and their families, at every opportunity. We urge the government to meet the ambition of these recommendations with appropriate resources,’ the Commissioner said.
Both the Commissioner and the Principal Commissioner, Liana Buchanan, welcomed the recommendation that the role of Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People be enshrined in legislation and provided with powers equivalent to the Principal Commissioner. The commissioners also welcomed the recommendations for new powers to receive complaints from Aboriginal children and young people in child protection and out-of-home care, and to intervene in legal proceedings relating to their rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act.
‘In 2013, the Victorian government showed initiative by appointing the first dedicated Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People in Australia. Ten years later, Yoorrook’s recommendations take this further by enshrining this role in legislation,’ Commissioner Singh said.
The Commissioner agreed with the recommendation to establish a new independent police oversight body, but cautioned that it must have expertise in the issues relating to children and young people. The recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and to prohibit the detention of children under 16 years, is consistent with the Commission’s own recommendations in the Our youth, our way systemic inquiry into the experiences of Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria’s youth justice system.
Commissioner Singh welcomed the Yoorrook Justice Commission’s position on the need for greater cultural safety and focus on human rights in child protection, and responses to youth offending, which she said would create greater understanding of the issues facing many Aboriginal children, young people and their families.
‘I have been heartened to see the Yoorrook Justice Commission focus with such rigour on issues myself and previous commissioners for Aboriginal children and young people have long advocated to address – the over-representation of Aboriginal children in child protection and youth justice systems, and the impact of systemic and individualised racism in these systems,’ Commissioner Singh said.
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People
0437 046 360