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‘Tough on Crime’ Youth Justice Reforms will disproportionately target and harm Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids  

[supplied by NATSILS]

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Image: supplied

NATSILS is shocked by the N.T Government’s proposed youth bail reforms announced yesterday. It is clear  the reforms will especially impact Aborignal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth and push them further into the quicksand of the criminal justice system.

No child belongs in prison. Most incarcerated youth in the NT are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Locking up kids causes lifelong damage to their physical and mental development, and this is also opposed by the Australian Medical Association for clear health and developmental reasons. Aboriginal people and NATSILS want to work with the NT government to prevent youth offending and address the underlying issues driving children and youth contact with criminal justice. 

Most kids in prison have not even been sentenced or found guilty - they are denied bail because of family or housing issues or because of over-policing of strict bail conditions. Bail laws must be reformed.

"We want our communities to be safe. Locking up kids only makes this worse and we can’t keep building more prisons. We need to back responses that work – continuing investment in community driven solutions that support Aboriginal children and families” - Priscilla Atkins, NATSILS Co-Chair / NAAJA Chief Executive Officer

“These policies fly in the face of the recommendations handed down by the Don Dale Royal Commission. If children are in prison, the government has failed. We urge NT and all Australian governments to abandon dangerous law and policy that targets our young people, and aim to build futures not prisons, and focus on strengthening communities, provide support for alternatives and wrap-around supports.” - Dr. Hannah McGlade, NATSILS Executive Officer

Aboriginal-led solutions work, and mean that all of our kids will have healthy bodies and spirits; their families will be supported, strong and connected in caring homes; with access to  culturally safe legal, disability, family violence, education, and health supports. These solutions are imperative in ensuring self determination and ending over-incarceration of our people.

Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), in all matters, governments must act in accordance with the best interests of the child. The proposed bail laws violate the UN CRC and must be condemned. We also call on the federal government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the CRC and fully implement the treaty requirements by giving Aboriginal youth, especially of the NT,  a voice.

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