A leading Indigenous international human rights law expert has urged the Federal Government to ratify a key protocol on children’s rights to assist youth in detention.
It comes as Federal Greens Senator Lidia Thorpe last week urged the new government to back the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues expert member Hannah McGlade said while Australia had ratified the Convention, children still did not have the right to appeal human rights violations effectively with international agencies.
“Children and youth are people who don’t have a voice,” she said.
“We particularly need to elevate their voices in terms of human rights issues, access to justice, and access to international human rights law mechanisms.”
Ms McGlade said minors recently sent to a maximum security adult prison in Western Australia could use the protocol, if ratified, to lodge a complaint.
“We have adults in that position, former Banksia Hill detainees now in adult prison, who are talking about killing themselves,” she said.
“Indigenous children and youth are particularly denied a voice, we especially need to advocate their rights through the communications process of this system.
“The Albanese government wants to repair Australia’s reputation in international relations, they must repair their international human rights reputation.”
A Federal Department of the Attorney-General spokesperson said Austalia already had strong safegaurds in place to protect children.
“Australia has already acceded to five communications procedures, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, amongst others,” they said.
“Children in Australia can already adequately access these communications mechanisms, should domestic remedies be exhausted.”
The Permanent Forum’s recent report called on member states to prioritise the human rights of indigenous children.
“The Permanent Forum further calls upon those States that have not yet ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including its three Optional Protocols – on a communications procedure, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to do so as soon as possible,” it said.
The report found high incarceration of Indigenous people led to poor health, poverty and untimely deaths.