#AceNewsReport – June.12: Seventy per cent of children the inquiry spoke to had reported harmful interactions with police, he said: Hearing those sorts of engagements with police and other authorities isn’t unusual … it’s pretty heartbreaking sometimes what you hear,” he said: There need to be other ways to engage with these young people other than with police contact.”
Victorian youth justice report hears ‘heartbreaking’ stories from Aboriginal children, recommends raising age of responsibility
updated 2d ago
Victoria’s commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people, Justin Mohamed, has released the findings from a three-year investigation into the state’s youth justice system.
Mr Mohamed, a Goreeng Gooreng man, is also pushing for new legislation to stop children under the age of 16 being sentenced to custody.‘It gives them hope’One small community knows breaking the cycle of hardship, crime and punishment sometimes means giving people a “fourth and fifth chance” Sending Aboriginal children as young as 10 to jail had “devastating consequences” for Indigenous families and was the sign of a morally unjust society, Mr Mohamed said.
He has urged the Victorian government to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, adding weight to a national campaign by Aboriginal rights and legal organisations.
“We are calling on the Victorian government in this report to raise the age and set the benchmark for others to follow to keep our children out of custody in those very early years,” he said.
The commission examined 300 case files and Mr Mohamed’s team interviewed 93 children across the state.
Many allegations made by children in the system raised “significant human rights issues”, Mr Mohamed said.
Children reported unsafe conditions in police vans, violent attacks that left them with broken bones, unnecessary use of capsicum spray, racial abuse and sexual threats.
First Nations children are nine times more likely than non-Aboriginal children and young people to end up in custody.
The inquiry found there was a dire lack of early intervention programs for Aboriginal children and teenagers.
Aboriginal young people begin interacting with police as children
The experiences of hundreds of Aboriginal teenagers are weaved throughout the report.
Many speak about their troubled upbringings and run-ins with police from an early age.
A boy the commission called “Tooran” told of his sister “Wawal” who struggled at school and began taking drugs at the age of 15.
“She was so young when the cops started getting involved. They picked her up so many times I can’t remember them all,” he said.
“Sometimes the cops were alright with her, but other times they were so rough.”
A 19-year-old man “Djiran” told the inquiry that interactions with police were commonplace during his childhood.
With relatives already in the criminal justice system, he said he was known to police and unnecessarily labelled as a criminal from a young age.
“I used to get in trouble for just being cheeky to the coppers because they knew who my dad was,” he said.
“When my dad went to jail I had nowhere to go.”
Djiran was charged and locked up at the age of 10.
“That’s when I started getting more charges,” he said.
“My peers were getting into trouble and I just thought it was cool.”
Mr Mohamed said a holistic approach was needed to better connect at-risk children with support services from the start, whilst addressing other aspects of their lives such as education, family life and mental health.
“It comes down to thinking more strategically than going to this quick fix through a justice system which has only been overrepresented and has caused more trauma.”
When pressed on whether the Victorian government would change state laws to lift the age of criminal responsibility to 14, Acting Premier James Merlino indicated the matter should be decided through a “national debate” among states and territories.
“This is a very important national debate, and we are absolutely participating in that national debate in terms of criminal responsibility and the age level,” he said.
“I acknowledge this is a very, very significant national public debate.
“The Attorney-General, other ministers in the Victorian government are absolutely engaged in this debate. We’ll see how that plays out, but we’re participating in it.”
#AceNewsDesk report………Published: Jun.12: 2021:
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