Mr Speakman then went on to argue that the statistics of children placed in detention centres are low, with the higher numbers accounting for youths on remand, not behind bars.
“The numbers who are detained are extremely low and generally they are there on remand rather than having been sentenced,” he explained, before stating that there were typically only “four or five nights a year” during which a 10 or 11-year-old was in a NSW detention centre.
Despite this, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) says that raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years is crucial in order to Close the Gap and ensure better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
RACP President Professor John Wilson said in a statement:
“The 2021 Close the Gap report includes a call for governments to take preventative and rehabilitative approaches to child and adult incarceration. Reducing rates of juvenile incarceration is one of the obvious first steps. We must support Indigenous leadership and commit to working with them on issues affecting their communities. Accountability and action to Close the Gap must be delivered."
RACP spokesperson and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Committee Chair Professor Ngiare Brown spoke to the ongoing damage that early incarceration can have on an Indigenous young person.
“As the RACP has emphasised, along with other medical and First Nations experts, there is substantial evidence showing the detrimental and long term effects youth incarceration has on physical and psychological health and wellbeing."
Rather than jump to incarceration, the report is calling for Attorney Generals to consider alternative approaches including earlier care, support and treatment options which will preserve human rights and hopefully, more just outcomes for the First Nations Youth community. It is hoped that continued advocacy and increased awareness will push the issue into the spotlight, encouraging critical reform and address the significant disadvantages experience by Australia's Indigenous community.
You can read the full Close The Gap report here.