Source: The Mercury, 17 December, 1996, p.8
FAR too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were in juvenile detention centres and the problem must be overcome to pre- vent a new generation becoming entangled in the justice system, a study warned yesterday. Although indigenous Aust- ralians made up just 2.6% of the 10-17 age group, they accounted for 36% of young people in juvenile detention centres in June this year, the Australian Institute of Criminology study found. As well, indigenous youngsters were 21 times more likely to be held in custody than their non- indigenous counterparts, up on the 17 times more likely rate recorded in a previous study in 1993. "Not only are there enormous costs to those young people and their families and to taxpayers but the long-term prospects of a justice system so starkly racially differen- tiated is positively harmful to Australia's future," said AIC direc- tor Adam Graycar. The surge of indigenous births in the 1980s would provide an even bigger pool of potential graduates from the juvenile justice to adult corrections systems. "The long-term effects of involve- ment with the criminal justice system on individuals, on families, on indigenous communities and on the nation as a whole are cause for concern," he said. "Despite the recommendations in the report of the Royal Com- mission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody [in 1991], over- representation of indigenous juv- eniles has persisted and the prog- nosis for the future is not good. "Over-representation varied from state to state with indigenous Australians 41 more times likely to be held in custody in Queensland than their non-indigenous counter- parts. The next highest rate was 31.6 times in Western Australia fol- lowed by New South Wales (20.5 times), the ACT (19), South Aust- ralia (13.7), Victoria (9.8), Tas- mania (8.2) and the Northern Territory (3.8) - a national rate of 21 times. On June 30,782 young people aged from 10 to 17 were in deten- tion centres and 285 of them were indigenous. The AIC questioned Australia's commitment to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and called on policy-makers to urgently implement specific strategies for indigenous youth. AAP
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