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UN Committee Recommendations Must Be Urgently Addressed

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Monday, 28 November 2022

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Youth Justice, Children and Young People, Human Rights

Cassy O'Connor | Greens Leader

The UN Committee against Torture’s concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Australia provides substantive recommendations for Tasmania. They need to be taken seriously by the Rockliff Government.

The UN has clearly highlighted the continued abuse of children's rights at Ashley Youth Detention Centre. They slammed the routine lockdown of children in their cells for 23 hours a day. 

It confirms what Tasmanians have heard for decades, including at the Commission of Inquiry. Ashley is no place for children, and must be closed as soon as possible. 

The UN’s observations include reform to pre-trial detention. They are explicitly recommending it is only used in exceptional circumstances.  Young people on remand deserve better than the brutalisation that comes from incarceration at Ashley.

The Greens have advocated for the Government to fund a bail hostel for years. It would prevent pre-trial detention of people solely because they do not have stable accommodation. 

We’ve also been calling for alternatives for children and young people who are detained at Ashley Youth Detention Centre before they have been convicted of any crime. 

The report also recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14, and immediately ending the practice of solitary confinement. 

These are essential reforms that cannot be ignored. The wellbeing of Tasmania’s young people depends upon it. 

The UN Committee highlighted the need to strengthen scrutiny processes to ensure no human rights-related bills are adopted that contravene the State Party’s human rights obligations. While this was primarily directed at the Commonwealth, it’s something the Tasmanian Government should take note of. 

The TLRI is currently updating their report on a Tasmanian Human Rights Act. We urge the Government to take that work seriously and respond in a meaningful way to this long overdue reform.

The Rockliff Government needs to respond to each and every relevant UN recommendation as a matter of priority. They cannot pass the buck to the Commonwealth, as the State Party when many recommendations relate to State legislation and practice.

While it shouldn’t take the United Nations highlighting Tasmania’s youth justice failures to fix it, now they have, the government must act.