Legal action to stop children being transferred to Barwon adult jail

On Friday 2 December, a further Supreme Court case was launched against the Andrews government to ensure no child is transferred to Barwon maximum security adult prison.

The case comes three days after the Andrews Government backed down and agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander child to Barwon prison.

Meghan Fitzgerald, lawyer at Fitzroy Legal Service, who is bringing the legal action, said that all children have the right to be safe.

‘I was at Barwon yesterday and it’s undeniably unfit for children. Putting kids in an adult jail is dangerous and sets a bad precedent. No child should be kept in such appalling conditions, in a prison built for the most dangerous people in Victoria,’ said Ms Fitzgerald.

There are approximately 15 children in Barwon adult jail. Most are under 18 years old and are yet to face trial. The children are being ‘locked down’ in their cells for upwards of 20 hours per day. Evidence shows that exposing children to these conditions risks causing irreparable psychological harm.

‘I have clients who two weeks ago were housed in an appropriate youth justice facility where they were attending school, finishing their year 10 and were awarded student of the week. Now they’re locked in a concrete cell for most of the day, staring at the ceiling,’ said Ms Fitzgerald.

The case argues that the Government acted unlawfully in sending children to Barwon jail, has failed to act in the best interests of children in its care, and is in breach of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights.

Ruth Barson, Director of Legal Advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is coordinating the legal team, said that the Government can not just pick and choose which children it treats humanely.

‘Sending any children to Barwon was a bad policy decision to begin with. Earlier this week the Andrews Government promised to keep one group of children safe. The Government must now act in a principled fashion and extend its promise to all children,’ said Ms Barson.

‘Every child deserves to be housed in a safe environment where they have the chance to rebuild their lives. In this day and age, there must be alternatives to putting children in the state’s most hardened adult jail,’ said Ms Barson.

For media inquiries:

Meghan Fitzgerald (Fitzroy Legal Service): 0450 977 447

Ruth Barson (Human Rights Law Centre): 0417 773 037

Michelle Bennett (Human Rights Law Centre – Director of Communications): 0419 100 519