Legislative Council: Tuesday, May 02, 2023


Juvenile Incarceration Rates

The Hon. C. BONAROS (14:48): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Attorney a question about juvenile incarceration rates.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. Simms: It will be good.

The Hon. C. BONAROS: It will be a good question, yes.

The PRESIDENT: The Hon. Mr Simms!

The Hon. C. BONAROS: The Training Centre Visitors Annual Report, which is a report on the operations of the Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre at Cavan and is prepared by the Office of the Guardian for Children and Young People, has revealed that the number of 11 to 13-year-old children locked up in South Australia has risen by 20 per cent in the past year. It further reveals that young repeat offenders are being incarcerated more often and that 292 individual children and young people were admitted to the centre across 759 separate admissions, the highest number of admissions since TCV reporting began in 2017-18.

Other systemic issues reported include conditions in the facility; limited access to education, rehabilitation programs and health treatment, which are taking a serious toll on the mental and physical health of children and young people detained; over-representation of children and young people who are under guardianship orders at the time of admission; a rise in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the centre; and children and young people being held in police cells.

The Guardian for Children and Young People and Training Centre Visitor, Ms Reid, has warned the government that it needs to do more to address the issues that have been identified. My questions to the Attorney are:

1. What is the government's position in terms of these very disturbing increases?

2. Is the Attorney concerned about these latest statistics?

3. What are we doing to tackle the spike in juvenile incarceration rates?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:50): I thank the honourable member for her very important question. The juvenile justice system is looked after by the Minister for Youth, the Hon. Nat Cook in the other place, and I certainly will refer details of that question to the minister, who will have some specific answers on programs, new programs and other interventions. But I will answer it by saying, yes, it is of concern.

I think it is of concern to all of us to see children incarcerated. It is an area of work that this government is involved in, not just at a state level but at a national level, to look if there are alternatives to the detention of children that will have not just a positive impact on the children's lives but also a positive impact on community safety.

Most recently, on Friday of last week, I was at a meeting with all my fellow attorneys-general from around Australia discussing this very issue and certainly later this year there will be a further working group report. We in South Australia continue to do work on this matter, as well as part of the federal process.