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Children and young people deserve better in the justice system

In recognition of their age and vulnerability, Queensland Law Society 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 has also drawn 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.

In the Queensland Law Society Call to Parties statement for this year’s state election, we call for a commitment to:

  1. Increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14.
  2. Increase legal aid funding for families responding to child protection investigations.
  3. 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 court houses across Queensland.
  • The appointment of more Childrens Court Magistrates.
  1. Maintain and enhance strategies to reduce the high rate of young people on remand in Queensland – for example breach of bail not being an offence and maintenance of detention as a last resort.
  2. 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.
  3. Ensure that the statement of standards under section 122 of the Child Protection Act 1999 be enforceable under the mechanisms of the Human Rights Act 2019.
  4. Implement a transparent and accessible complaints mechanism in the child protection system.
  5. Review the unimplemented recommendations of the Queensland Child Protection Commission of Inquiry and the barriers to implementation.
  6. 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.
  7. 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’.

Members are invited to read the QLS Call to Parties statement here. The Queensland state election is due to be held on 31 October.

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