Queensland’s Labor government has passed new right-wing law and order measures that will increase already disgraceful levels of Indigenous over-imprisonment.
Indigenous children are imprisoned at around 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous children in Queensland.
The moves, in response to a media panic about “youth crime”, will also encourage racist vigilante violence—like the murder of 15-year-old Noongar-Yatmatji boy Cassius Turvey last year.
They include overriding Queensland’s Human Rights Act to make breaching bail conditions a criminal offence for children.
Two new youth prisons are due to be constructed, and the expansion of an electronic monitoring trial will result in children as young as 15 being shackled with ankle bracelets.
Queensland’s youth prison system is already broken due to rising numbers of children in detention.
The Guardian recently reported that a 13-year-old First Nations boy spent at least 45 days in solitary confinement in Townsville’s Cleveland youth detention centre, yet received no prison sentence when finally brought to trial.
Experts have warned that the new laws will cause the number of youth detainees to explode.
Chronic staffing shortages at detention centres are already resulting in periods where detainees are not allowed to leave their cells.
With detention centres full, at one point more than 80 children were held in police watchhouses.
Despite the media furore, overall rates of youth crime are not actually growing in Queensland. An open letter signed by over 50 youth advocacy organisations and experts pointed out that rates of youth crime have been dropping for years—but the number of children imprisoned has increased.
Locking up children only increases the likelihood of re-offending. More money for prisons and police will do nothing to address crime nor empower Indigenous communities.
Instead of more racist policing measures targeting Indigenous people, funding for health, education and First Nations-led solutions to keep people out of prison are what’s desperately needed.
Queensland Labor’s actions show the farce of their Treaty negotiations with First Nations people, and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s claim these could see bring “a much brighter tomorrow” for Indigenous people.
Anthony Albanese has said nothing about his own party’s abuse of Indigenous human rights in Queensland.
With Indigenous communities still being ignored as governments push policies that further increase rates of imprisonment, promises that they’ll be listened to once there is a Voice to parliament ring hollow.
It is going to take struggle from below to end over-incarceration and policing and win the funding that could make a real difference.
By Luke Ottavi