Pages tagged "youth"
29 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:08): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of alternatives to prison.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Justice Reform Initiative released their report titled Alternatives to Incarceration in South Australia. The report argues that investment should be redirected into addressing the drivers of incarceration, rather than investing in jails and imprisonment—particularly for young people. The report states:
Prison does not work to reduce crime; it does not work to build safer communities; and it does not work to address the social drivers of contact with the criminal justice system. It has become an expensive, harmful and yet normalised failure which causes disproportionate harm to Aboriginal people who are significantly over-represented in both the youth justice and adult prison systems.
For young people in contact with the justice system, the report calls for evidence-based, community-led programs to provide off ramps out of the carceral system. The report contains a comprehensive list of evidence-based programs that have been proven to be effective as alternatives to jailing people.
At the September meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General in regard to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, it was agreed that the committee would consider the report and return to the December meeting of the Standing Council of Attorneys-General with a position or an update on the minimum age of criminal responsibility reform in their jurisdiction. It is our understanding that the December meeting will be held this Friday 1 December. My question to the Attorney-General therefore is:
1. Will the Attorney-General, on behalf of the government, be advocating to raise the age of criminal responsibility at that meeting?
2. Will the government finally commit to funding programs and alternatives to incarceration to keep young people out of prison?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:10): I thank the honourable member for his question. He is indeed right, there is a meeting of Attorneys-General due to take place in Canberra on Friday of this week that I will be attending on behalf of the South Australia government. One of the items that has been a longstanding item on that agenda for the Standing Council of Attorneys-General is the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
We will not be announcing something in the lead-up to this or in the near future after that; however, as the honourable member has asked a number of questions—and he has a very longstanding, passionate and sincere interest in this area—work continues in a South Australian context.
I have mentioned before that we are looking to see, if the age was raised, what would come in its place. As I have said before in this place, one thing that we certainly won't be doing is just changing the number in a bit of legislation. The overriding aim that we will be focusing on is what makes the South Australian community safer. Certainly, there are now jurisdictions right around the world—in the UK, in Europe, in New Zealand, in Victoria, in the territories, in other places—that have raised the age, and we are looking at the evidence about what makes the community safer.
There are suggestions that keeping particularly young people out of the criminal justice system can increase community safety. One of the most telling factors about being incarcerated as an adult is contact with the criminal justice system as a juvenile. How that is raised is certainly something that we would need to look at. We have no commitment; we are doing the work to look at it.
One thing that other jurisdictions have looked at is what the age is raised to. I know many advocates advocate for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14. The jurisdictions that have moved in this space so far have started at 12, with an ambition or a stated desire to raise it to 14. The other thing is whether there are things that are exceptions or carve-outs, and that is something that other jurisdictions have dealt with. Certainly, in the work that we are doing in terms of what would come instead of a criminal justice response—those therapeutic responses—are things like the initial age and whether exceptions is something we will consider.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:12): Supplementary: will the minister commit to giving an update to this house on that work when parliament resumes in the new year?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:12): Depending on what state the work is up to, certainly.
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:
|Simms, R.A. (teller)
|El Dannawi, M.
|Maher, K.J. (teller)
Motion thus negatived.
2 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:16): Supplementary: in light of news that the ACT is raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, will the minister provide an update on the government's work on raising the age?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:17): I can provide an update. I commend the honourable member; I know this is something that is he is very interested in, as is his colleague in the ACT the Hon. Shane Rattenbury, who is a member of the Greens political party and is the ACT Attorney-General, with whom I have had very constructive discussions about what they are doing in the ACT.
If my memory serves me correctly, in the ACT the age is being raised to 12, with a view or a review to look to raise it to 14. I think that is what is happening in the Northern Territory as well, that step to 12. Victoria has announced an intention, I think, also to look at going to 12. Tasmania has announced a policy not to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility but to raise the minimum age of detention—which in some respects will have a similar result, but in others it won't stop those very young children having that initial interaction with the criminal justice system that raising the age seeks to do.
I can assure the honourable member it is an issue that we are continuing to progress in this government. One thing that has become very apparent as we have done work on this that I think other jurisdictions have found is simply changing the number in legislation from 10 to 14—or from 10 to 12, as I think all other jurisdictions are starting with around Australia—wouldn't resolve or solve many problems. It is what is put in place of that interaction with the criminal justice system, and often they are the supports, the family supports, the therapeutic interventions—it is work on which there has been a massive effort already, and that is continuing.
2 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of youth treatment orders.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: On Tuesday, the Youth Treatment Order Visitor's annual report was tabled in parliament. The report states that, and I quote:
Australian research indicates that mandated drug treatment is ineffective for most young people.
In the conclusion of the report it is stated that it is entirely foreseeable and a likely reality that young people affected by this scheme will feel alone, unheard and traumatised. The report makes three clear recommendations:
1. To repeal part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984.
2. To develop and resource adequate trauma-responsive, child-centred community and evidence-based drug and alcohol initiatives.
3. That the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre not be used as a secure holding facility for children and young people who primarily have therapeutic needs, for which it does not have a real and resourced capacity to address those needs.
My question to the Attorney-General is: has the Attorney-General read the report, and will the government commit to implementing all three recommendations from the youth treatment order report?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:48): I thank the honourable member for his questions. I will answer the last one first: yes, I have read the report. From memory, it's a 17 or 18-page report that has been completed. In relation to the three recommendations, the second two recommendations, if my memory serves me correctly, are made to the minister for the Department of Human Services in relation to Kurlana Tapa and the therapeutic programs. I certainly will be having discussions with my colleague the Hon. Nat Cook, the minister responsible.
In relation to the first one—the repeal of part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act—that rests with myself as Attorney-General. I think I outlined that, when the honourable member asked a question earlier this week about media reports particularly on that same report, pursuant to the legislation that passed there was a review to be conducted on the third anniversary of the commencement of the section.
That third anniversary comes up next year. I think November 2024 is the third anniversary. I am not going to pre-empt a review, but certainly what the honourable member asks can absolutely be a part of that review, and I would be very surprised if the honourable member doesn't actually make that suggestion when that review is being conducted.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:49): Supplementary: given the severity of the claims made in the report, will the Attorney-General commit to fast-tracking that review and taking immediate action?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for his question. I think the review will be conducted as it is legislatively required to be conducted. I do note also that, I think as I referred to yesterday, since part 7A came into operation there has not been one of these orders made.
It would probably be even more pressing, if these orders were being made regularly, to look at the review, but given that since this had passed, if my memory serves me correctly, there has been one application for an order to be made but that was withdrawn before any order was actually made. I completely appreciate the honourable member's views on this, but there hasn't been an order made under this regime and there is a legislative requirement for a review of its operation coming up next year.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:50): Supplementary: does anything in the legislative review requirement preclude the government from conducting its own review at an earlier date and fast-tracking action on this element?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:51): This house does as it pleases in terms of we are sovereign in what we do in our parliament, regardless of when departments and other things are required to conduct reviews, but we intend to conduct the review as per the legislation at this stage.
1 November 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of youth treatment orders.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In her report tabled in parliament yesterday, the Youth Treatment Orders Visitor, Shona Reid, provided serious concerns about the implementation of youth treatment orders which allow the SA Youth Court to order drug-dependent children in detention to receive mandatory treatment. Ms Reid described her commentary in the report as 'scathing' and stated that, and I quote from the report:
The Youth Treatment Order Visitor believes that the rollout of the Youth Treatment Order process from November 2021 put detained young people to further trauma and harm, with poor preparation for the scheme's implementation and a distinct lack of child-centred practices and policies and a rights-based approach.
One of the recommendations made in that report is that:
The Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre not be used as a secure holding facility for children and young people who primarily have therapeutic needs for which it does not have a real and resourced capacity to address those needs.
My questions to the Attorney-General are:
1. What is the government doing to address the rights of young people in our justice centres?
2. When will the Malinauskas government raise the age of criminal responsibility to avoid children being caught up in the justice system?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question and I will answer it particularly in relation to the preamble he gave in terms of youth treatment orders. Youth treatment orders, as we know them in South Australia, came into operation in November 2001 with commencement of part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984. Their introduction was intended as a last resort for young people who are drug dependent, have refused to engage in voluntary treatment, pose a risk to themselves or other people, and only where all other appropriate treatment orders have been exhausted.
The youth treatment orders program sits alongside health services already available to young people detained in Kurlana Tapa, including mental health support, medical treatment and voluntary drug programs. Their introduction was intended to provide that circuit breaker only in the most serious of cases. To date, and I think as was outlined in the report the honourable member referred to, there has been one youth treatment order application, which was made in October 2022.
The assessment order was granted for the assessment; however, the detention order was withdrawn so no treatment orders have actually been made since the introduction of the scheme in South Australia. I am aware that in accordance with section 54P of the Controlled Substances Act, a review of the operation of that part of the act will need to be completed after the third anniversary of the commencement of the section, so that would be three years from November 2021, so from November next year, there will be a review of that section of the act. As I said, there has not been a single order yet made under that provision.
27 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (17:10): I move:
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.
Members in this place know that the Greens hold grave concerns about the welfare of young people in our criminal justice system. In South Australia, young people from the age of 10 can be remanded in or sentenced to youth detention. A 2021 study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that South Australia detains children at a higher rate than the national average.
Exposure to the criminal justice system can cause cognitive harm to young people and can affect their wellbeing into their adult life. We need to ensure that we protect children from this harm by ensuring that they are kept out of the criminal justice system. The regulations that were gazetted on 3 August this year have raised concerns among organisations that advocate for young people.
Regulation 9 provides that children as young as 10 years of age who are in lawful custody and were taken into custody further than 40 kilometres of Adelaide's General Post Office may be detained in 'a police prison or approved police station, watch-house or lock-up in accordance with those sections'. This means that in cities such as Gawler, Mount Gambier, Whyalla, Murray Bridge, Victor Harbor, Port Lincoln, Port Pirie and Port Augusta, children as young as 10 are being detained in adult facilities—children as young as 10. They do not belong in prison. They belong in school.
In a 2022 report, the Commissioner for Children and Young People noted that children were arrested or detained in SA Police cells or watch-houses at least 2,030 times in 2020 to 2021. Of those admissions, 43.8 per cent were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young people. In some regional and remote locations almost all children arrested and detained were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. So this is a policy that has a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Greens believe that no child should be detained in a youth justice centre, a police prison, a police station, a watch-house or a lock-up. Jailing children sets them on a pathway that results in continuous contact with the criminal justice system. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out binding principles for sentencing juvenile offenders. Article 37 states:
No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.
Given the terrible damage that detention does to the wellbeing of children, we must ensure that provisions such as these are subject to maximum scrutiny.
On 21 June, the ABC reported that child detainees were suffering in isolation in Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre. The article states that children spent 21 consecutive hours locked in cells on 31 May and on 1 June this year. Training Centre Visitor Shona Reid was quoted in the article, saying:
To be in this tiny little room having nothing but a foam mattress, a shower and a toilet, metal bathroom and a screen that has a couple of channels to watch on TV for 21 hours is something that's really difficult for anybody, let alone kids and young people…to comprehend.
Ms Reid cited staff shortages at the youth detention centre as being one of the issues that is resulting in poor outcomes for children detainees as there are currently 20 vacant staff positions at that centre. How is it acceptable to allow children as young as 10 to be locked up in these facilities?
We need to do better; we are failing our state's most vulnerable young people. We need to be looking at alternatives and considering how we can divert children from the criminal justice system. I welcome the Malinauskas government's indication that it is doing that. I note the reply the minister gave to my question today in this place, where he indicated the government is looking at diversion programs. We welcome that, but they should not be continuing on with these regulations that continue a practice that the Greens regard as immoral.
Instead of introducing regulations that maintain the status quo and continue the jailing of children, we should be implementing these new models and programs that will keep them out of this system. The expiry of the previous regulations have presented an opportunity for the Malinauskas government to improve the conditions for young people who are entering the criminal justice system. Instead, the regulations that were laid on the table in this place have retained the existing provisions and will keep children locked up.
The Greens are moving to disallow these regulations to put the government on notice that this is not good enough. They need to start implementing alternatives to locking up kids. If this place decides that these regulations are to be disallowed, the government will need to go back to the drawing board and try again. That is what we are asking the government to do: create a system that supports getting kids out of the legal justice system instead of perpetuating a cruel system that locks up young people and sets them on a path to crime.
I will be bringing this matter to a vote in coming months so that we can test the position of the parties in this place. It is a moral test, and I really hope that this parliament rises to the occasion and rejects this immoral approach to youth justice.
Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. I.K. Hunter.
27 September 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:18): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of youth detention.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Tasmanian government tabled a report titled 'Who was looking after me? Prioritising the safety of Tasmanian children'. The 2,922-page report contains recommendations to reduce the number of children in youth detention and states that the Tasmanian government should, and I quote:
a. introduce legislation to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years, without exception
b. develop and provide a range of community-based health, welfare and disability programs and services that are tailored to…the needs of children and young people under the age of 14 years who are engaging in antisocial behaviour, and to address the factors contributing to that behaviour
c. work towards increasing the minimum age of detention (including remand) to 16 years by developing alternatives to detention for children aged 14 to 15 years who are found guilty of serious violent offences and who may be a danger to themselves or the community.
My question to the Attorney-General therefore is: is the Attorney-General aware of the recommendations contained in the Tasmanian report, and does he share similar concerns in relation to the welfare of children in detention here in South Australia?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:19): I thank the honourable member for his question and his continued interest in the area of the criminal justice system and its interaction with young people. I had the opportunity, I think it was on Friday last week, to speak to the Tasmanian Attorney-General, the Hon. Elise Archer. Although this report hadn't been released and couldn't be canvassed in detail, I was made aware that there would be a substantial report. As the honourable member indicated, it comes in at just under 3,000 pages of a very substantial report.
One of the areas that I did traverse in discussions with the Tasmanian Attorney-General is what the report may say in relation to the minimum age of criminal responsibility, and also the minimum age of detention, as there are a couple of jurisdictions in Australia that have already indicated and flagged that they will be looking to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
I think the Northern Territory has implemented that and Victoria and the ACT have given an indication that that's what they will be looking at doing. I think all those jurisdictions have not done as the honourable member has outlined in the recommendation, which is to raise it to 14, but have raised the minimum age to 12. I can't remember which jurisdiction it is, but I think most, if not all of them, have indicated that that is a first step, with an ambition to raise the minimum age to 14.
Certainly, I haven't read the whole report since it was released this week, the 3,000 pages, but, as I said, having had the benefit of hearing directly from the Hon. Elise Archer, the Tasmanian Attorney-General, I was able to get a bit of an understanding of some of the things that it might traverse. It will of course be up to the Tasmanian government for their implementation of the many and varied recommendations in that report. If I remember correctly, I think the Tasmanian government has previously announced an intention to raise the minimum age of criminal detention to—I can't remember if it's 12 or 14. It's not the minimum age of criminal responsibility but the minimum age of detention. I am sure the Tasmanian government will be looking very carefully at this very substantial report.
In terms of the parallels that might be drawn with the South Australian youth justice system and Kularna Tapa, obviously I will seek to get some understanding of what they are, but I am not sure how directly the parallels relate to the Tasmanian youth detention system. I know there has been very significant media attention on some of the difficulties with the Tasmanian youth detention system, which I am not sure are necessarily present in the South Australian system. That is certainly something I would be happy to look at in the weeks and months to come, and also to finalise it, too, because I know it is of great interest to the honourable member and to the Greens party in general.
We continue our work in relation to this area. I have said before in this chamber, and I am happy to reiterate it, that we are considering what the responses would be should we raise the minimum age in South Australia—as I have said before, those interventions that wouldn't be criminal justice but therapeutic family support interventions with the overriding aim of making the community safer. That work in South Australia continues, and it will be good to look at any parts of this report that can help inform and supplement the work we are doing in South Australia.
30 August 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:10): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of young offenders.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: Yesterday, the Attorney-General tabled the Young Offenders Regulations 2023. Under section 9 of these regulations, a young offender who is detained within 40 kilometres of Adelaide's General Post Office:
…may be detained in a police prison or approved police station, watch-house or lock-up in accordance with those sections.
That applies for as long as it is reasonably practicable.
In a 2022 report on South Australia's progress on recommendations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the commissioner for young people noted on page 15 that children were arrested and detained in SA police cells or watch houses at least 2,030 times between 2020 and 2021. Of these separate admissions, 43 per cent of these young people were First Nations young people.
My question to the Attorney-General is: why does the government think it is appropriate to detain children as young as 10 in police stations, watch houses or lock-ups for indefinite periods? When will the government move to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14 years?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:12): I thank the honourable member for his question and his passionate advocacy in the area of raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility in particular. As I have outlined in this place and in public before, we are undertaking work to look at what it would look like if we did raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility. It is not a policy we have committed to, but there is certainly a large body of work that we are undertaking in South Australia, as there is being undertaken nationally by all states. The national process commenced under the former government, who committed to looking at what it might look like and the evidence for raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility.
Some of the areas that continue to be looked at in South Australia are areas that you might expect; that is, if you raise the age from 10 to 12, as I think the NT and the ACT have done, and I think Victoria made a recent announcement about raising the age, and I think Tasmania have made an announcement about raising the minimum age of detention, which is not the minimum age of criminal responsibility, but in some areas it has a similar effect in terms of children who are actually detained in custody facilities. One of the main areas is: what comes instead of the criminal justice system—those other sorts of interventions, be they therapeutic interventions, family supports or other interventions?
I have to say, I have been surprised at just the complexities and the amount of work that has gone into this already. There is another matter that touches on what the honourable member raised, in addition to what the other interventions are in a young person's life that might even be more successful in making the community safer by having a lower chance of reoffending. But then, what are the immediate powers of, particularly, police officers in terms of being able to intervene immediately?
There are very successful processes in place in terms of family conferencing that the police use. The immediate police powers to intervene in situations, particularly dangerous situations, is another element of the work that's ongoing. The honourable member raises one of them, and that is detention in police cells, and it is acknowledged that that is often a suboptimal experience for children, but that is certainly part of the work that we are undertaking as we look at this issue holistically.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:14): Supplementary: when will the parliament receive an update on that work that is being undertaken and, in particular, does that work involve consideration of the report of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:15): I thank the honourable member for his question. As much as I would love to give the honourable member a date, that it will happen on this day of this month, I don't have a date. It is important work that we want to do thoroughly. From the outset, the overriding factor about these changes is what makes the community safer. We are looking internationally, too, at what the results have been in terms of the reduction in reoffending and the effects on community safety. We will do the work as thoroughly as possible, and I know the honourable member will look forward to any announcement we have in this area.
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (15:15): Supplementary: again, has that work been informed by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child report?
The PRESIDENT: I am not sure that that report of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child—I didn't hear that in the original answer. However, Attorney, if you would like to answer the question you can, otherwise we will move on.
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:16): I am most helpful and I am happy to do so, sir. As I said, certainly the work has looked at international experiences and looked at a whole range of different jurisdictions that have moved this way, and are looking at it as well.
3 May 2023
In reply to the The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (3 May 2023).
1. How many children between the ages of 10-14 have been detained in the justice system in the last 12 months?
2. Of those children, how many are between the ages of 10-12?
3. What is the government doing to progress the Optional Protocol to the (United Nations) Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) which prevents the torture, illegal treatment, and deprivation of human rights for detained people?
4. How much funding is being provided by the South Australian government to implement OPCAT?
5. Is the government providing extra financial and human resources to the Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People to provide oversight for children and young people to the international standard required by OPCAT?
The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector):
I have been advised:
1. Between 10 May 2022 and 9 May 2023, a total of 41 children aged from 10 years to 13 years and 11 months were admitted to Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre.
Cumulatively, these children spent a total of 275 nights in custody along with two children who were admitted to Kurlana Tapa but did not remain overnight.
2. Between 10 May 2022 and 9 May 2023, eight children aged from 10 years to 11 years and 11 months were admitted to Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre. These children spent a cumulative 13 nights in custody over the past year.
Table 1—Admission of children aged 10 to 13 years to Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre between 10 May 2022 and 9 May 2023
|Child age on admission
|Number of children
|Number of admissions
Please note the sum of the 'number of children' column is 45 but the total number of individual children comes to 41. This is because four children had subsequent admissions after their birthdays.
3. As I have indicated previously in this place, South Australia, like other jurisdictions, stands prepared to implement OPCAT when the commonwealth government provides proper and ongoing funding to do so. The South Australian government continues to work closely with the commonwealth government to progress the implementation of OPCAT and issues concerning funding. OPCAT remains a priority item on the Standing Council of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting agenda for 2023. At the 28 April 2023 SCAG meeting, all participants affirmed their commitment to continue to work together towards full implementation of OPCAT obligations. I welcome this commitment from the commonwealth government and look forward to continuing to progress efforts to support the full implementation of OPCAT.
4. The South Australian government's position is that funding to implement OPCAT is a matter for the commonwealth government. The South Australian government continues to work closely with the commonwealth government to resolve issues relating to funding for the National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) to ensure that they are able to effectively carry out their functions and powers under OPCAT.
5. The Training Centre Visitor (currently Ms Shona Reid who also holds the office of Guardian for Children and Young People) was nominated in January 2022 by the former government to be the NPM for training centres when OPCAT is implemented. The implementation of OPCAT, including the passage of legislation needed to confer NPM functions on the Training Centre Visitor, remains subject to resolution of issues related to federal funding.
8 March 2023
The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: I move:
That this council—
1. Acknowledges that 13-17 February 2023 marked End Youth Suicide Week;
2. Notes that one in four young Australians experience a mental health issue each year;
3. Notes that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 14 to 25 and that approximately nine young people die by suicide every day; and
4. Recognises the valuable work of the Youth Insearch Foundation to reduce the incidence of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm, and suicide in young people.
This motion seeks to acknowledge that 13 to 17 February 2023 was End Youth Suicide Week, and notes that one in four young Australians experience a mental health issue every year. It notes that suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 14 to 25, and that approximately nine young people die by suicide every day. It recognises the valuable work of the Youth Insearch Foundation to reduce the incidence of crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicide in young people.
Many young people in Australia today are impacted by the problems stemming from poverty, broken and dysfunctional homes, domestic violence, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, death and grief, substance addiction and other traumatic events. As a consequence, many of these young people can struggle with education, employment, homelessness, and mental illness and find themselves turning to self-harm, suicidal ideation, drug and alcohol abuse, crime and violence.
But, also, we know that many young people take their own lives despite receiving significant support from family and friends, and that is a truly shocking and devastating thing for our community. Sadly, in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death among those aged 14 to 25, and over one in three deaths of young people aged 14 to 25 are by suicide. In fact, approximately nine young people die by suicide in Australia every day. What is most heartbreaking is that this number continues to grow year by year.
I know, within my own social circle, I have seen the terrible effects that can flow from death by suicide, the terrible effect that has for family and friends left behind. Youth suicide in Australia disproportionately affects Indigenous, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the LGBTIQ+ community, and young people living in rural and remote areas. These are truly awful statistics.
Fortunately, there are organisations, like Youth Insearch, that shine a light on this issue and provide early intervention and support. Established in 1985, Youth Insearch is an independent not-for-profit peer-led youth intervention organisation dedicated to supporting at-risk youth overcome trauma and mental health issues, protecting them against suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Youth Insearch runs one of the most successful youth intervention programs in our country. The program was developed together with young people back in 1985. The Youth Insearch program is an award-winning, proven, comprehensive early intervention program that consists of counselling, support, mentoring and empowerment for at-risk young people who are aged 14 to 20 and is delivered through weekend workshops, support groups, peer support, leadership and individual care.
The program works by allowing young people to confront and deal with the reality of the pain in their lives. By drawing on the resources of other young people and their experiences, the organisation is able to address the real problems or the underlying issues that many of these young people may face. About 30 per cent of young people who have attended the Youth Insearch program are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and 10 per cent are culturally and linguistically diverse.
I understand that Youth Insearch leaders come from these diverse backgrounds and are all trained in cultural sensitivity as part of their work. In its 37 years of operation, Insearch has helped almost 32,000 young people rebuild their lives, and it has assisted a thousand young people across our country each year.
An independent external review commissioned by the New South Wales government found positive outcomes across multiple behaviour and wellbeing measures and found that the program had a sustained positive impact on these issues over time. Some of the reported positive outcomes included less trouble with police and crime, higher self-esteem, improved family relationships, reduced suicidal thoughts and attempts, reduced alcohol and drug use, and better attendance and attitude towards education.
Youth Insearch run an End Youth Suicide Week, which is a campaign to encourage the community and young people to defy the stigma associated with mental health and to have supportive conversations about suicide with their friends, families and communities. End Youth Suicide Week this year ran from Monday 13 to Friday 17 February.
I commend Youth Insearch for their success in combating youth suicide and for moving young people from trauma to triumph, and I congratulate them on a successful End Youth Suicide Week. I do hope that the week has led people to have conversations within their communities and improved awareness around suicide and has led to young people at risk being connected to the support that they need. With that, I commend the motion.