OPG media release

Giving a voice to the children and young people held in Queensland’s youth detention centres and adult correctional facilities

Natalie Siegel-Brown

No child or young person, no matter what their actions, should ever be subjected to—or have to witness—what we saw on ABC’s Four Corners program on Monday night.

As Public Guardian, I share the view of the Queensland Children’s Commissioner that the footage serves as a powerful reminder of the need for vigilance. Vigilance that is followed by meaningful action.

The Community Visitor Program represents the Queensland’s Government’s commitment to protecting the rights and interests of the State’s most vulnerable children and young people, with an intense focus on children and young people in detention and adult correctional facilities.

The Public Guardian is an independent statutory office responsible for protecting the rights and interests of children and young people in the child protection system, including children and young people being held in youth detention and adult correctional facilities.

A key strength of the Public Guardian’s advocacy and independent oversight lies in its provision of community visitors. Community visitors regularly visit children and young people in youth detention centres and adult correctional centres to hear the child or young person’s own story about their safety and wellbeing. Community visitors meet with these children and young people out of the hearing of others and advocate on their behalf.

Our community visitors seek to resolve issues that young people raise, at the time of their visit. Any issues that cannot be resolved in this way are raised formally with the detention centre or other appropriate agency for active resolution.

Our community visitors visit youth detention centres at least weekly; and sometimes twice a week. In addition to these regular visits, children and young people in detention can also call the Office of the Public Guardian on a free call number at any time seeking an additional visit from a community visitor. Community visitors can also conduct unannounced visits to a youth detention centre. At every visit, community visitors have ready access to all units within a youth detention centre and to information held.

There is no doubt that it is difficult for children and young people to disclose incidents where they have, or are being subjected to harm or abuse in any setting. This underscores the importance of an independent advocate, with full access to the child or young person - and the proper authority - to resolve issues then and there.

The OPG is committed to working with other oversight bodies including the Queensland Family and Child Commission, Queensland Ombudsman and the Crime and Corruption Commission to ensure that the voices of children and young people in youth detention in the child protection system are heard.

The ABC Four Corners Program touched me in the same way it will have touched most Australians who watched it. It reminds us of the vital role that oversight and independent advocacy play in the protection of this State’s most vulnerable children and young people.

No person of any age should feel afraid to raise these issues with my agency. After all, that is what we are here for.

Natalie Siegel-Brown signature

Natalie Siegel-Brown
Public Guardian