Amid elections for the incoming Queensland Government, Amnesty International has called for the state to adopt a Human Rights Agenda to focus on youth justice issues. The agenda is an eleven point plan designed to keep families and children connected and addresses the alarming fact that children as young as 10 years old are imprisoned in Queensland.
Amnesty International Australia’s Queensland Branch President Paul Toner welcomes the agenda and believes “Protecting Queensland kids’ safety and hopes for their futures must be a top priority for all candidates in the Queensland election. For too long, politicians have been putting children’s safety at risk with brutal, outdated punishment-based policies, that have been proven again and again not to work.”
The Agenda includes the recommendation that the Government raise the age of criminal responsibility to a minimum of 12 years in accordance with the international standard of 14 years. Earlier this year Parliament passed legislation to move 17-year-olds out of adult prisons as it is against international law, hence Amnesty International is calling for these children to be removed from adult prisons as soon as possible. The agenda also highlights the abuse of children in prison and demands the quick implementation of the recommendations in this year’s Independent Review into Children in Queensland Detention. This would see the establishment of an independent inspector of custodial services in accordance with the United Nations Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture. Unfortunately, Amnesty International states that Queensland’s remand rates are the highest in Australia, and thus have included in the agenda a request to stop imprisoning children who have not been sentenced.
Sadly, the agenda focusses heavily on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who are 27 times more likely to be imprisoned than their non-indigenous counterparts in Queensland according to Amnesty International. The agenda calls for funding to support Indigenous run family support services by enacting the 20-year Our Way plan developed in 2017. This plan targets the link between child incarceration and the removal of children from their families. Amnesty International Australia’s Indigenous Rights Campaigner, Roxanne Moore, believes that “by adopting the Human Rights Agenda for Queensland, the incoming Government will take a courageous and significant step towards protecting the rights of children in Queensland, especially Indigenous children.”
The establishment of a Human Rights Agenda will hopefully shift money from building more prisons into community-led programs, which support disadvantaged communities and prevent people committing crime. The agenda also recommends the enactment of a Human Rights Act which would protect the rights of people of all ages in Queensland and promote fair and inclusive communities. This will ensure the rights of every Queenslander, no matter their race, gender, age or sexual orientation, will be upheld.
Queenslanders will be voting on their government on the 25th of November. The political alliance of the candidates is not the issue of importance, it is their stance on human rights that will determine the success of Amnesty International’s recommendations. If the Human Rights Agenda is enacted, it will be a positive advance in Queensland’s history.
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