They really are a brutal lot. While the Queensland Labor Government croons on matters regarding rights, liberties and, it should be said, the plight of the First Nations Peoples, its policy, notably on youth detention, is a contradictory abomination. This situation finds itself repeated across the country, though the Sunshine State, as it is sometimes called, does it better than most.

In Australia, jurisdictions have persistently refused to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Down under, troubled children are treated as threatening ogres, monsters to cage rather than educate. Legislatures and lawmakers have taken fiendish pleasure in using more stick than carrot in the penal process, the result being that errant ten-year-olds find themselves in facilities of supervised squalor. These are fecund grounds for future, full-fledged criminals, and they rarely fail to disappoint as teachers in that regard.

For the pure sake of electoral benefit, political parties continue to demonise and denigrate wayward, lawbreaking delinquents. Governments continue to detain children with varying degrees of severity, with officials scratching their heads on novel ways of keeping them off the streets and in the cells. Queensland has had a particularly insatiable appetite for the practice, having used it for decades. Between 2021 and 2022, thousands of children were detained for durations exceeding six hours; hundreds for 48 hours or more. The rough cost for this exercise over two years: A$35 million.

In early August, Queensland’s Department of Youth Justice had to come clean to the state Supreme Court that it had been running a gruesome, unlawful experiment in penology. Remanded children were being held in police watch houses otherwise designed for adults instead of youth detention centres. This also entailed placing children alongside adult offenders. The practice was brought to light in a challenge by the Caxton Legal Centre acting for the non-government support agency Youth Empowered Towards Independence Incorporated (YETI Cairns).

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