Greens' media release - 15 March 2012
The NSW Upper House passed legislation late last night which will formalise the existence of the Serious Young Offenders Review Panel. The government, however, rejected a Greens amendment which would have legislated Aboriginal representation on the Review Panel.
Greens NSW MP and Justice spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
"Only three per cent of children in NSW are Aboriginal, yet half the children in NSW correctional centres are Aboriginal. This is a shocking statistic and we need to deal with it.
"The Serious Young Offenders Review Panel decides whether a young person who has committed a serious offence should be kept in higher or lower security detention.
"In 2009, 27 per cent of all young offenders before the panel identified as Aboriginal, and the figure rose to 29 per cent in 2010.
"Having operated administratively for twelve years, it is a positive step forward that the panel's existence is being legislated.
"The Act only requires a Magistrate sit on the panel together with at least two other members (without specifying the qualifications of either of these other members).
"Given the high rate of incarceration of Aboriginal children, it is essential that one of the members of the review panel always be Aboriginal.
"Even though there is the capacity to place an Aboriginal representative on the review panel, it is not required. The Greens amendment would have made it mandatory.
"After more than two centuries of injustice being delivered to Aboriginal citizens from this state's criminal justice system, this was an opportunity to get a measure of balance back. Sadly, the government could not support this move.
"It is important to legislate Aboriginal representation on bodies such as these to show our recognition of Aboriginal over-representation in the NSW prison system and our commitment to dealing with it," Mr Shoebridge said.
Read David's blog on the issue online here: http://davidshoebridge.org.au/
The full legislation debate in parliament can be found here: http://goo.gl/pQAJC
Media contact: 9230 3030 | 0433 753 376