Children as young as ten years old, who are being kept on remand but have not been convicted of any crime, will be locked up and held indefinitely in adult watch house under the new laws that have been passed in Queensland.
These heinous laws will go down in history as one of the most serious violations of human rights committed by the government of Australia in recent times.
It was a low blow for the Queensland government to adopt new rules at the 11th hour on Wednesday that override the state’s Human Rights Act. This is a blow that should trigger shockwaves all over the country.
A little over two weeks ago, the Supreme Court of Queensland issued an order mandating that the government remove three children who were being held in police watch house. The court ruled that the children’s detention was unlawful and a grave infringement of their rights.
One would assume that in a country like Australia, which takes great pleasure in providing a fair go to its citizens, an apology would be issued for such a blunder, and sufferers would be awarded some form of recompense.
This statement could not be further from the truth in the state of Queensland. The state government has demonstrated that it would bulldoze over anything – and any civility – that comes in its way in order to achieve its goals. The legal system in Queensland is in disrepair. The quest for justice has been completely derailed by these recent events.
The vast majority of juveniles detained in watch house and prisons are considered to be on remand, which indicates that they have not been found guilty of any offense. In addition to this, these figures continue to rise because of the atrocious bail regulations that exist in this state. These laws take precedence over the Human Rights Act of Queensland.
Since the state’s bail provisions have been adopted, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander minors make up two-thirds of the juvenile offenders who have been found in violation of the new bail laws.
Children who haven’t even been given a sentence are crowding into the state’s juvenile detention facilities, which are already at capacity. Now, as a last ditch effort to clean up the mess it’s made, the government is converting police watch homes into sites where people can be detained.
The maximum amount of time that adults can be held in police watch homes is 48 hours; nevertheless, the Queensland government has admitted that children have been held for up to 40 days, and their imprisonment will now be indefinite. Police watch houses are supposed to hold adults for no more than 48 hours.
The recently enacted laws present a significant and present danger to children. Children should never be placed in adult watch houses because they force children to be separated from their families, subject them to the risk of suffering serious damage, and hold them for an indeterminate period of time.
Because of the conditions that children are subjected to, such as being detained in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours per day, we have heard frightening allegations of self-harm and suicides across the country, including in the state of Queensland. These reports have caused us great concern.
There are other, more appropriate ways to interact with children, as well as other potential answers. Programs run by communities all throughout the United States are working with children and their families to ensure that the youngsters receive the appropriate assistance at the appropriate time and in the appropriate setting. Not only have these programs been very effective in preventing and rehabilitating problematic behavior, but they have also been quite successful in all of the other Close the Gap domains.
The actions of the Palaszczuk government are beyond repulsive and shocking, and those words don’t even begin to give them justice. This is one of the most serious violations of human rights and children’s rights in the recent history of the state, and it is going to have a devastating impact on the lives of hundreds of people for a good many years to come.
As a result of the prioritization of petty politics over the protection of human rights for our children, these are troubling times not only for those living in Queensland but for all of Australia.