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Australia’s shame revealed: Indonesian children in our adult prisons

Media Release
Penny Wright 4 Oct 2012

Australia’s shame revealed: Indonesian children in our adult prisons

A Senate inquiry’s report released today has revealed that, in a shocking dereliction of care, the Australian Government has been locking Indonesian children in maximum-security adult prisons since 2008 and has exposed the Commonwealth to significant compensation claims.

 “These children, some of them as young as 14, were dumped into adult prisons in Australia and left there for years,” Greens spokesperson for immigration and human rights Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said.

 “The damning evidence that experts gave to the Senate committee has showed that the Government charged, convicted and imprisoned these children in full knowledge of the questions about their age.

 “Despite evidence that these wrong doings were brought to the attention of Commonwealth officers, the Government continued to show wilful blindness and as a result children were left in prison.

 “The report has recommended that the Australian Government apologise to all Indonesian minors who were wrongly detained and inform them of their right to seek compensation for the time they spent in prison.

 “The Government should also officially remove from legislation the unreliable and inaccurate procedure of using wrist x-rays to determine a person’s age.

 “These were vulnerable, desperate children and, instead of protecting them, the Government threw them into maximum-security adult prisons.

 “There are already two cases where children who were imprisoned by the Australian Government are seeking compensation and, as the scale of this scandal becomes apparent, I expect more claims will be lodged.

 “The Senate committee’s findings are shocking and the Australian Government needs to explain how it will make sure this situation is never repeated,” Senator Hanson-Young said.

 Committee Chair, and fellow Greens Senator from South Australia, Penny Wright, said the report confirmed that there has been a shameful failure by the Australian government to apply the same legal protections to Indonesian minors that we would demand for young Australians.

 "In a country such as Australia, we don't lock up our own children in adult prisons and we should apply no lesser standard to vulnerable young people coming to our shores from overseas.

 In her additional comments, Senator Wright has recommended that the government appoint an independent legal guardian to represent those claiming to be minors, to ensure their adequate protection in the future, as well as guaranteed access to legal representation. 

 "The fact that many of these young people were held for long periods of time without legal representation is reprehensible. In our additional comments, Senator Hanson-Young and I have recommended that legal assistance should be made available to those suspected of being underage, within three days.  To achieve this, we are also recommending a full-time, independent legal aid representative be stationed on Christmas Island.

 "Justice also demands that the Government consider how it can assist in healing the psychological wounds of those who were wrongfully locked up. Many of these young people will take mental scars home with them to Indonesia as a result of their prison ordeals, and it is imperative the Government provide culturally appropriate support to help them to recover."

 Media contacts:

Noah Schultz-Byard – 0427 604 760 (Sen. Sarah Hanson-Young)

Jennifer Maisel – 0417 173 508 (Sen. Penny Wright)

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