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Human Rights Commission to intervene in Hakea children court case
Commission President Professor Gillian Triggs
The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has entered the fray over the 141 children being held in Perth’s Hakea, an adult prison. The AHRC will appear before the Supreme Court of Western Australia in the matters raised concerning the transfer of the children from Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre to Hakea Prison.
The case led by Sydney-based Shine human rights lawyer, George Newhouse on behalf of the families of the children in the adult prison is seeking to challenge two decisions of the Department of Corrective Services (DCS) to locate the children to Hakea following an alleged riot at Banksia on January 31.
Judges, lawyers and human rights advocates have criticised the decision to send the children to Hakea and have said that the decision to do so is in breach of the Youth Offenders Act. But Western Australia’s Premier, Colin Barnett, has supported the DCS decision.
The legal action is seeking to challenge and overturn the decision to locate children to the adult prison facility. The DCS in order to transfer the juveniles to Hakea declared a section of Hakea as a detention centre for the purposes of the Young Offenders Act 1994 (WA).
There are at this time 141 children detained at Hakea however after the January 31 alleged riot only 73 children had been transferred to Hakea. The Applicant has requested the AHRC to intervene in the Supreme Court matter to raise human rights issues regarding the rights of the children.
The Stringer asked the AHCR if the Human Rights Unit of the AHRC or Commission President, Professor Gillian Triggs and a delegation would visit the children. The spokesperson said that this may not be necessary and that it is not necessary at this time. But this may well become the case if representatives of the AHRC appear before the WA Supreme Court.
“At this time our concern is with possible breaches of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” said the spokesperson.
Commission President Triggs outlined a number of issues.
“The Commission is concerned the proceedings raise a number of human rights issues relating to conditions at Hakea, in particular the rights of children set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a Party.”
“In particular, the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort. Every child deprived of their liberty is required under the Convention of the Rights of the Child to be treated with humanity and respect,” said Commission President Triggs.
Commission President Triggs said that by applying for leave to intervene the Commission sought consideration of the human rights issues – specifically the rights and obligations arising under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, to be fully considered by the Court when reviewing the decisions (to declare Hakea suitable for detention and then to transfer the children to Hakea).
The Stringer asked the AHRC if complaints had been lodged by family members and advocacy groups with the AHRC on behalf of the children. Parents of children detained at Hakea, and rights advocates such as UWA law student Marianne Mackay, had said to The Stringer that they were lodging complaints with the AHRC.
The spokesperson said that he could not speak to this because “under legislation we act impartially to mediate where we can and we must maintain confidentiality at all times – complaints are always confidential.” The AHRC works to act as “a third-party.”