A woman and child pass a playground in Melbourne on Aug 17, 2021. (WILLIAM WEST / AFP)
CANBERRA – Urgent action is needed to address a crisis in Australia's youth detention system, according to the national children's commissioner.
In a speech marking the opening of the National Child Protection Week on Monday, Anne Hollonds said Australia's federal, state and territory governments have failed to address the safety and wellbeing of children.
"The ongoing crisis in youth justice is (a) national systemic failure to protect children and young people," she said.
"Policies and service systems are failing to provide children and their families with the support they need, leading to more children coming into the child protection and youth justice systems."
The ongoing crisis in youth justice is (a) national systemic failure to protect children and young people… Policies and service systems are failing to provide children and their families with the support they need, leading to more children coming into the child protection and youth justice systems
Anne Hollonds, Australian National Children’s Commissioner
According to data released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in March, there were 4,695 young people under youth justice supervision on an average day in 2020-21.
READ MORE: Sixth child dies from Australian jumping castle tragedy
Indigenous Australians made up only 5.8 percent of all people aged 10-17 in the country but 49 percent of all people in youth justice centers.
Issues have been exposed at youth detention facilities in Australia in recent years, with staff accused of child abuse.
Hollonds on Monday said vulnerable children and their families have been let down by governments that have failed to implement key recommendations from major inquiries into the system.
ALSO READ: Australia govt favors boosting temporary skilled migrants' pay
"Unlike many other developed nations, Australia has no national plan for child wellbeing and no minister for children. Nor do we have cross-portfolio leadership, like a taskforce, to address the system failures which are barriers to child safety and wellbeing," she said.
Hollonds said international evidence shows that community-based early interventions are the best way to protect and support children.
"More children in Australia are experiencing poverty and homelessness. We need a coordinated national approach to address the underlying causes of harm to children, and we need a much greater sense of urgency," she said.
ALSO READ: Australia's female spy boss says a 'concrete block' stops women's careers