The Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT) Limited (‘ALS’) has welcomed the recommendations of a new Report by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People which focus on the greater use of diversion and more investment in Aboriginal community-led programs, in an effort to lessen the chance of children and young people being forced into contact with the justice system.
Released today, the Report, ‘What children and young people in juvenile justice centres have to say’, was based on interviews conducted with 260 children and young people being held in NSW detention centres.
ALS Chief Executive Officer Karly Warner said, “Listening to the voices and experiences of children and young people in detention is critical. They must be involved in developing policies which impact their lives and their futures.”
Throughout the report, Aboriginal children in custody consistently highlighted the importance of connection to culture and said they have a preference for programs and services to be provided by Aboriginal workers and Aboriginal community controlled organisations.
“Culture is an important protective factor for Aboriginal kids. When you are ripping children away from their families and communities, placing them into juvenile detention centres, you remove that protection too.”
The ALS welcomes the report’s recommendations for greater funding of holistic community-led programs which help to identify and address the range of complex factors that force young people into contact with the justice system.
“We know that young Aboriginal people are significantly less likely than non-Aboriginal kids to be diverted from appearing in court. But with strong community-led programs in place, which are driven by Aboriginal communities, we can intervene early on and prevent kids from getting caught in the quicksand of the criminal justice system.”
“Currently a large number of Aboriginal kids are being held in juvenile detention centres on remand. They have little to no access to programs on remand, the consequences of this are severe and damaging and we should end detention of young people who are not sentenced,” said Ms Warner.
The ALS also strongly supports recommendations for the expansion of the Youth Koori Courts well as the Report’s call to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.