High ACT rates of indigenous child incarceration found: report

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Winnunga Nimmityjah
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs.

DEMANDS have grown “urgently” to implement recommendations from a 2018 ACT child protection system report over a five-year high in incarcerated indigenous children and teenagers. 

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services have expressed “deep concern” over rates of incarceration of young Aboriginals and/or Torres Strait Islanders in the ACT that were detailed in the latest Productivity Commission’s report on government services.

Aboriginals and/or Torres Strait Island children and teenagers spent 1877 nights in custody through 2019-20 in Canberra compared to 1073 nights 12 months earlier.

The 74.9 per cent surge in numbers last year from the report released on Wednesday (January 20) is the highest number in the territory since 2014-15.

Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services chief executive Julie Tongs was exasperated why indigenous youth have been locked up at 18 times the rate of non-indigenous youth.

“This report shows why the ACT government needs to urgently implement all of the 28 recommendations from the ‘Our Booris, Our Way’ report,” Ms Tongs said.

“By urgently acting on the ‘Our Booris, Our Way’ report, the ACT government can at last begin to address the systemic failures for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children involved with child protection in the ACT and ensure that Aboriginal children receive the care that they need.

“These figures highlight why we need additional investment to support Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children, youth and families and to build capacity of Aboriginal community-controlled organisations.

“We also call on the ACT government to appoint an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Children’s Commissioner to the ACT Human Rights Commission.”

The latest figures have cast a dark shadow on the ACT being perceived for its progressive ideals in the country.

The ACT Council of Social Service has slammed the indigenous “over-representation” in custody.

The data from the report on government services also revealed the 2019-20 rate of children in care was over 72 per 1000 children under 18 years in the ACT.

This was 14 times higher than the rate for non-indigenous children and above the national rate.

“Urgent policy and legal reform are also needed,” ACTCOSS chief executive Dr Emma Campbell said.

“We are keen to see the ACT government deliver on its commitment to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years of age as soon as possible.

“We need to build a child protection system capable of ensuring the safety and well-being of children while working to keep families together and/or connected.

“Implementing all recommendations of the ‘Our Booris, Our Way’ review into the care and protection of Aboriginal children in the ACT will be critical to achieving this.”

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  1. ‘The latest figures have cast a dark shadow on the ACT being perceived for its progressive ideals in the country’. Anyone who looks at this government’s annual reports and/or the RoGS data will know it’s all talk, almost no real outcomes.

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