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Adjournment: Our Youth, Our Way report

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
24 June 2021

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Attorney-General. In the last sitting week of Parliament the Our Youth, Our Way report by the Commission for Children and Young People was tabled. It was an inquiry into the over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people in the Victorian youth justice system. This inquiry had many very important findings, but today I would like to focus on one major revelation. This inquiry found over 70 per cent of the Aboriginal children and young people interviewed reported racism, mistreatment or violence by police. Allegations include not having access to essential medical care, not having access to a support person or lawyer and feeling overt pressure to give information or to not exercise their right to silence. They also extended to tightening of handcuffs, unnecessary use of capsicum spray, verbal threats, yelling and swearing, unsafe conditions in police vans, multiple officers tackling a child or young person to the ground, sexual threats, striking with batons and kicking and stomping resulting in broken bones and serious injuries. The commission described these reports as raising significant human rights issues.

Several children and young people also reported instances of police attempting to conceal their behaviour, including turning off body-worn cameras and video recorders, taking off badges and taking young people outside the view of cameras. These reports are disturbingly consistent with the findings of the IBAC special report on corrections, tabled just this week in Parliament, that found excessive use of force and corruption.

The stories of these children are shocking. While many incidents will be difficult to verify, with the police themselves being the only witnesses, we must believe children. For years we have been saying we must believe women who report sexual assault, and this is no different. We must believe children. First Nations children are amongst the most vulnerable groups in our society, so little can be more important than uncovering and eliminating racial profiling and racist abuse in our justice system and reforming our laws to stop the massive over-incarceration and over-representation of First Nations children in our justice system. The action I seek is for the minister to heed the recommendations of the Commission for Children and Young People and establish an expert, independent, culturally qualified inquiry into this horrifying abuse.

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
24 June 2021
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