Child protection and youth justice
Children occupy a very vulnerable space in our society. In recognition of their age and vulnerability, QLS has advocated for better treatment of children and young people in our legal system through systems advocacy and our policy position paper on children and young people’s issues.
QLS also draws attention to the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the child protection and youth justice systems. As such, we highlight that appropriate and effective policies can only be developed by listening to and understanding the perspectives and needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
QLS calls for a commitment to:
- Increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years old.
- Increased Legal Aid Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service and legal assistance sector funding for families responding to child protection investigations.
- Increase specialisation of the Childrens Court, which would include:
- In Brisbane, holding Childrens Court matters in a standalone Childrens Court building and making a commitment to rolling out new standalone courthouses across Queensland.
- The appointment of more Childrens Court Magistrates.
- Maintain and enhance strategies to reduce the high rate of young people on remand in Queensland. This would include breach of bail not being an offence and maintenance of ‘detention as a last resort’.
- Review of the effectiveness of the Joint agency protocol to reduce preventable police call-outs to residential care services with a view to reducing the criminalisation of children in care.
- Ensure that the statement of standards under section 122 of the Child Protection Act 1999 is enforceable under the mechanisms of the Human Rights Act 2019.
- Implement a transparent and accessible complaints mechanism in the child protection system.
- Review the unimplemented recommendations of the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry and the barriers to implementation.
- Allow for intermediaries, such as speech and language therapists and speech pathologists, to be provided to children in the youth justice system. There are a number of benefits flowing from such an initiative including better outcomes during the legal process and longer term.
- Undertake a culturally appropriate community conversation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people about the issues affecting them particularly with respect to their interactions with the justice system. QLS commends the approach taken by the NSW Advocate for Children and Young People in the report ‘What Aboriginal children and young people have to say’.