Government must address alarming numbers of Aboriginal young people locked up on remand

Legal experts say failure by successive governments to support young people and meet Closing the Gap targets has resulted in an alarming number of young people – and a record proportion of Aboriginal young people – held on remand in NSW. 

Young people are held on remand when they do not get bail and are locked up while they wait for a hearing.  

New statistics from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) show: 

  • while there has been a steady decline in the number of young people sentenced to youth detention over the past decade, the number of young people on remand is now at near record highs. 
  • in March 2024 there were 169 young people held on remand, accounting for 75.8% of all young people in custody. 
  • 68.8% of all young people on remand (116) were Aboriginal, which is the highest proportion on record. 
  • 66.4% of all young people in youth detention were Aboriginal, which is the highest proportion on record. 

The NSW Government has signed on the National Closing the Gap agreement, which includes a commitment to ensuring Aboriginal young people are not over-represented in the criminal justice system. 

Recent changes to bail laws proposed by the NSW Government will make it even more likely that young people will be locked up while they wait for a hearing. This fails young people and fails Closing the Gap.  

Quotes attributable to PIAC Senior Solicitor Grace Gooley: 

‘There are more young people on remand at the same time that the number of young people in youth detention is declining. This indicates that many young people held on remand are released without receiving a custodial sentence. The question is: why did they have to be locked up at all?’ 

 ‘The overrepresentation of Aboriginal young people shows an appalling failure by government and NSW Police on Closing the Gap. We have warned over and over that heavy-handed and discriminatory policing is having disastrous impacts on Aboriginal communities in NSW. Here’s more stark proof.’ 

‘The recent NSW Government ‘tough on crime’ changes to youth bail laws are going to mean more of the same. More disadvantage faced by overpoliced communities and more children and young people locked away from families and communities without the support they need.’  

Media contact:  
PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Dan Buhagiar: 0478 739 280.  

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