Perhaps this will get the message across to the people making barbaric policy that sees over 1000 kids seeking asylum behind bars in Australia’s detention centres, here on the mainland and also on Christmas Island and Nauru. A popular movement with respected figures from the sporting, film and television community has been launched with the slogan: We’re better than this.
But really, why would we think we’re better than this? Since the 1980s the rate of Australian children (aged 10-17 years) held in detention without being sentenced, either on remand or awaiting first court appearances, has been steadily climbing from one-fifth of the total juvenile detention population, to over one-half (Australian Institute of Criminology 2011). We can expect the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report Youth Detention Population in Australia 2014 in the next few weeks. However, last year’s report found that Indigenous young people were 27 to 33 times more likely to be held in unsentenced detention than non-Indigenous young people. Australia, we don’t have a good track record on this kind of thing.
While I applaud Bryan Brown et al. for standing up against the injustice that is ‘kids in detention’, I also hope that they can broaden the scope to include the 400-500 Australian kids, more than half of whom are Aboriginal, behind bars every night while convicted of no offence.