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Motion: Young Offenders Act Regulations Disallowance

15 November 2023

Motion of Hon. R.A. Simms:

That the general regulations under the Young Offenders Act 1993, made on 3 August 2023 and laid on the table of this council on 29 August 2023, be disallowed.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:26): I thank honourable members for their contributions to this debate: the Hon. Connie Bonaros, the Hon. Nicola Centofanti and the minister, the Hon. Kyam Maher. I am, however, disappointed that there is not support for this chamber and for this disallowance motion from the Greens. I note the Leader of the Opposition referred to the term 'intelligent and pragmatic solutions'. I do not think locking up children is an intelligent or pragmatic solution—surely we can do better than that.

To briefly draw to the attention of the chamber some key statistics, in 2021 a study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that South Australia detains children at a higher rate than the national average. In 2022, a report from the Commissioner for Children and Young People noted that children were arrested or detained in SA Police cells or watch houses 2,030 times between 2020 and 2021. Of those admissions, 43.8 per cent were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young people.

In 2023, on 21 June, the ABC reported that child detainees were suffering in isolation at Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre. The article stated that children spent 21 consecutive hours locked in cells on 31 May and 1 June 2023. On 3 August, new young offenders regulations were gazetted. A particular concern to the Greens, as the Attorney-General has acknowledged, is regulation 9, which is the regulation that provides that children as young as 10 can be detained in adult facilities if they are taken into custody further than 40 kilometres from Adelaide's GPO.

The government had an opportunity to change those regulations and they have not taken it up, they have not done so. The government's case seems to be, 'Well, if this regulation is removed, then all the others fall away.' Surely, the government can then step in and fill the gap if necessary. I am very concerned about the welfare of these children, and those concerns were only heightened when on 31 October this year the training centre visitor report was tabled in this parliament. I will read from some of those key statistics.

That report showed that in 2022-23, 39 young people under the age of 14 were detained. For the first time since 2019, two 10 year olds were detained, that is, children of primary school age. Ninety per cent of young people detained on an average day were on remand, so only alleged to have committed a crime, and in 2022-23 there was an 11 per cent increase in the number of individual young people admitted compared with the previous year, that is, 324 young people. One in two of those children are First Nations young people (53 per cent) and 25 per cent of young people at the Youth Justice Centre have a known diagnosed disability.

Surely, we can do better by those young people in 2023. Surely, there is a better solution for these young people than locking them up in adult prisons. It is immoral, and I think the government has an obligation to do something about this. The Greens are very concerned that this issue is being pushed off into the never-never. There needs to be action taken on this sooner rather than later, because it is very clear from the reports that have been raised by the Training Centre Visitor that the situation is dire, and we need some leadership from the government on this urgently. I want to indicate to members that I will be calling a division, so that their views are on the public record.

The council divided on the motion:

Ayes 2

Noes 17

Majority 15


Franks, T.A. Simms, R.A. (teller)  


Bonaros, C. Bourke, E.S. Centofanti, N.J.
El Dannawi, M. Game, S.L. Girolamo, H.M.
Hanson, J.E. Henderson, L.A. Hood, B.R.
Hunter, I.K. Lee, J.S. Maher, K.J. (teller)
Martin, R.B. Ngo, T.T. Pangallo, F.
Scriven, C.M. Wortley, R.P.  

Motion thus negatived.