Three independent bodies – the Office of the Inspector of Correctional Services, the ACT Human Rights Commission, and the ACT Ombudsman to the Commonwealth – have been designated to uphold the human rights of people in detention to better support their social, health and wellbeing outcomes.
The organisations will form the ACT’s National Preventive Mechanism to support Australia’s implementation of the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
This group will improve human rights safeguards and protections across facilities such as the Alexander Maconochie Centre, Bimberi Youth Justice Centre and Dhulwa Mental Health Unit. It will help identify systemic issues for the ACT Government and form part of a national framework for oversight under OPCAT.
Attorney General Shane Rattenbury says that while secure facilities are a last resort, they must be safe and support the health and wellbeing needs of detainees.
“Upholding the human rights of detainees is key to achieving better outcomes in their own lives, and ultimately support rehabilitation and reintegration into the community,” Minister Rattenbury said.
“The National Preventive Mechanism is an important element to the ACT’s human rights framework, providing independent oversight and prevention of torture and other cruel or degrading treatment.
“This work is particularly important for people with complex needs who are at increased risk of human rights abuses when their liberties are taken away, such as people with disability, First Nations people, LGBTQIA+ and gender diverse people.”
Australia ratified the UN’s OPCAT in December 2017 and the establishment of a network of National Preventive Mechanism in states and territories supports Australia’s obligations to implement the international treaty.
“The designation of a National Preventive Mechanism to oversee places of detention in the ACT will have a positive effect on the human rights of Canberrans, particularly those who become subject to detention within the Territory,” Minister for Human Rights Tara Cheyne said.
“The three agencies making up the multi-party National Preventive Mechanism are well placed to undertake this important role. They have strong knowledge and experience in oversight and monitoring for human rights compliance and anti-discrimination.”
Minister for Youth Justice Emma Davidson says this additional oversight will ensure transparency across the youth justice system and better support the needs of young people and their families.
“Young people deserve to be safe, valued, respected and hopeful about their future. This measure will help deliver more support so they can engage in healthier and safer behaviours no matter where they are in the youth justice system,” Minister Davidson said.
Minister for Corrections Mick Gentleman adds that the ACT is well placed to support Australia’s implementation the OPCAT, with a robust group of oversight bodies already in place.
“Oversight bodies such as the Office of the Inspector of Correctional Services (OICS) play a crucial role in supporting the wellbeing and human rights of detainees within our correctional facilities.
“I am grateful for the role that the OICS, HRC and Ombudsman perform, and look forward to seeing that role expand they form the ACT’s designated National Preventive Mechanism.”