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WA’s Aboriginal youth detention rate requires urgent action

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 10 Dec 2013

The Australian Greens said today that the alarmingly high rate of Aboriginal youth detention is a disgrace, and called on the WA Government to urgently invest in in Justice Reinvestment.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's ‘Youth detention population in Australia 2013' report has found that in the June quarter of 2013, the ratio of Aboriginal to non-Aboriginal youth aged 10-17 in detention in WA was 60 to 1, compared to the national ratio of around 31 to 1.

"This ratio is a sharp reminder that current policies are failing to help young Aboriginal people around Australia and particularly in WA," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues said today.

"The AIHW have found that these rates have increased because the number of non-Indigenous youth in detention has dropped, but the number of Aboriginal youth has remained static.

"This shows us that current policies aren't working for Aboriginal young people, and that the WA Government's ‘tough on crime' approach is letting down young Aboriginal people. Putting kids in detention does not address the underlying causes of crime and disadvantage that can lead to them being there in the first place.

"The Greens are calling for national and state investment in Justice Reinvestment, which encompasses a community focused approach to help families, address the causes of crime and divert potential offenders. This needs to be underpinned by a National Centre for Justice Reinvestment and a system of Commonwealth funded grants to help state and local governments and community organisations initiate local justice reinvestment pilot programs.

"Justice Reinvestment has the backing of legal, health and social services experts, keeps our communities safer and helps keeps kids out of trouble and give them the best start in life," Senator Siewert concluded.

"We need Federal leadership for a new approach across the country to fix what is clearly a very broken system," said Australian Greens spokesperson on legal affairs, Senator Penny Wright.

"Shocking figures like these are why the Greens have been lobbying hard for a new Justice Reinvestment approach to crime which emphasises the need to strengthen communities and invest resources to prevent crime in the first place."


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