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Queensland government decision to remove 17-year-olds from aduilt prisons welcomed by AASW

Published: 7 September 2016

The Queensland Government has taken a landmark and long-overdue step by introducing legislation next week to remove all 17 year old children from the adult prison system, said AASW QLD Branch President Dr Fotina Hardy, today.

“This is a victory for children’s human rights. As the only state in Australia that allows young people to be incarcerated in an adult prison, this is a truly significant decision that recognises the rights and needs of young people,” said Dr Hardy.

She says the AASW has continually called for all Australian legislation and policies (including offshore detention) to be in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which considers a person as a child until the age of 18.

“A 17 year old is still a child and even though their status as children is recognised in a whole range of policies, we have legislation that treats them as adults in the criminal system,” Dr Hardy said.

“This is not only in breach of the UN Convention, to which we are signatories, but goes against everything that research tells us about child development and what is in a child’s best interest.”

Still, Dr Hardy says, much more work is needed to address the causal factors that contribute to children ending up in the justice system.

“Removing children from adult prisons needs to be followed up with a review of the youth detention system in general, and what systems are in place to support young people. As we have seen in the Northern Territory, the system is failing children and in many cases further traumatising them.”

“We need a greater investment in family support and early intervention services to make sure every child has the opportunity to live to their full potential in a loving and supportive environment,” Dr Hardy said.

The Australian Association of Social Workers represents over 10,000 professional social workers.

To arrange an interview with Dr Fotina Hardy, please phone Emma Pegrum, Media and Marketing Manager on 02 6199 5011 or 0408 200 191.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers