Submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s investigation into Youth Justice and Child Wellbeing Reform across Australia

PIAC has made a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s national investigation into opportunities for reform of youth justice and related systems. In calling for submissions, the Commission noted ‘[w]hile Australia has made some reforms to youth justice systems, there remain laws, policies and practices that impact negatively on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people and fail to serve the wider public interest’.

Our submission makes recommendations on three issues with negative impacts on the rights and wellbeing of children and young people in Australia. Our recommendations are drawn from our policy work, the experiences of our clients and the findings of investigatory bodies.

We recommend:

  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility in all jurisdictions to at least 14 years of age, without exception. PIAC is a member organisation of the national campaign to Raise the Age, and we co-ordinate the campaign within NSW.
  • Discontinuing use of pre-emptive policing practices on children and young people, such as the Suspect Targeting Management Plan in NSW, and conducting bail ‘compliance checks’ in the absence of a court ordered enforcement condition. We recommend replacing these practices with community-led and designed place-based approaches, which involve genuine partnerships with non-government organisations, police and service providers, and are proven and effective alternatives that reduce recidivism.
  • Placing more stringent safeguards on the use of solitary confinement in youth justice centres. Solitary confinement interferes with child development and can traumatise a young person, potentially causing permanent psychological damage which may lead to self-harm, psychosis, and suicide.
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Towards Truth is a partnership between PIAC and UNSW Indigenous Law Centre.
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