Earlier this month, Queensland Parliament passed youth justice legislation that allows courts to fit teen offenders with GPS trackers, increases police powers and removes the presumption of bail for certain offences.
The measures were introduced to combat youth crime, which became highly charged in Queensland after the deaths of expectant parents Kate Leadbetter and Matthew Field on January 26 and Townsville woman Jennifer Board in February.
The controversial new laws target about 400 repeat offenders, most of whom are Indigenous.
Below, Maggie Munn from Amnesty International Australia shares her opinion on the laws.
With the recent anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, the tragic death of another seven Indigenous people in custody in the past two months, as well as the conviction of the police officer who murdered African-American man George Floyd in the United States, focus has again turned to why so many Black people are locked up in Australia.
As a Gungarri woman, I know firsthand the impact of the criminal justice system on my people and, more specifically, on our kids. It is no secret that Indigenous kids are likely to interact with the criminal justice system and police at some point.
I’m going to preempt the keyboard warriors - please don’t give me the “where are the parents” or “if you don’t want to do the time, don’t do the crime” lines.
I suggest instead you listen, really actively listen, to the experience of my people – of both the long tail of trauma due to colonisation and the systemic racism kids as young as 10 are up against.
Listen to The Quicky, Mamamia's daily news podcast. On this episode, we explore Aboriginal deaths in custody 30 years on from the Royal Commission. Post continues below.
The amendments which have passed in Queensland earlier this month include reversing the presumption of bail for serious indictable offences, which means kids will be locked up instead of accessing the diversion programs, which, unlike prison, are proved very effective in reducing re-offending.
There have been notable media reports, you may even say campaigns, about youth crime waves in places like Townsville and Alice Springs (Mparntwe). In reaction to these reports, the Queensland and Northern Territory governments acted swiftly to wind back hard-fought reforms to their youth justice acts.
The Queensland government recently held public consultations and hearings – at which I gave evidence of Amnesty’s concerns with the amendments. In one of the so-called crime hot spots, the community meeting held to discuss the youth crime wave was cut short because so few people attended. To me, this doesn’t suggest a problem, but a perception of a problem.
What’s so disturbing about that is that governments are willing to jump at anecdotal evidence of a crime wave, but are unwilling to act when presented with actual hard evidence that locking kids up does more harm than good.