The Salvation Army is deeply concerned by the ABC’s Four Corners report which highlights the treatment and living conditions of children in juvenile detention. The Salvation Army works extensively with young people across many of its community programs including those in the Northern Territory.
The Northern Territory has the highest rate of youth detention in Australia1. Currently, 97% of those young people in detention in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal2. The Salvation Army acknowledges that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have frequently and consistently expressed their distress and concern regarding the treatment of incarcerated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are overrepresented in the overall Australian prison system (including juvenile detention), with the imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples currently sitting at a rate 13 times higher than that of non- Indigenous people3.
Furthermore, The Salvation Army recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are amongst the most marginalised groups of people in Australia. We acknowledge that this marginalisation has at times been caused by historical discrimination and oppression, as well as attitudes of racism entrenched within societal activities and policies. The treatment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in detention cannot be considered in isolation from the ongoing discrimination of Australia’s First Peoples.
The Salvation Army welcomes Prime Minister Turnbull’s announcement of a Royal Commission into the abuse of young people in the corrections system.
In addition The Salvation Army encourages the Australian Federal Government to:
- Increase resourcing towards tailored, specific and culturally relevant rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism amongst young offenders, specifically in the Northern Territory;
- Further develop compassionate and culturally appropriate responses to children in juvenile detention, including specific responses to the mental health requirements of children in detention;
- Review and consider implementing the recommendations from the ‘Royal Commission into the Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report’;
- Formally engage key Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander peak bodies and individuals throughout this process.
The Salvation Army’s National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Reference Group focuses specifically on issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. Through this group, The Salvation Army will continue to listen to, and promote the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
1Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2015, Youth Detention Population in Australia, Bulletin 131, December 2015, Canberra, accessed 26th July 2016, <http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129553698>
2Vita, M 2015 Review of the Northern Territory Youth Detention System Report, viewed 26th July 2016 <https://correctionalservices.nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/238198/Review-of-the-Northern-Territory-Youth-Detention-System-January-2015.pdf>
3Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014), Prisoners in Australia, Cat. no. 4517.0. Canberra; Australian Bureau of Statistics (2014), Corrective Services Australia, December Quarter 2014, Cat no. 4512.0. Canberra.