Aboriginal child to address UN Human Rights Council and urge Australia to stop sending 10 year olds to prison

Aboriginal child to address UN Human Rights Council and urge Australia to stop sending 10 year olds to prison

Tomorrow in Geneva, a 12 year old Arrernte/Garrwa boy from central Australia, will give a heartfelt speech at the world’s peak human rights body with a simple message for Australian governments: stop sending 10 year old children to prison.

Dujuan, the young star of the acclaimed documentary, In My Blood It Runs, has travelled to the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council with his grandmother and father to share his own experiences with the youth justice system and build support for Aboriginal-led education models.

“I will be a bit shy to speak to all the countries at the United Nations because adults never listen to kids – especially kids like me. But we have important things to say,” said Dujuan.

A key message Dujuan has for the Australian Government is to stop sending 10 year olds to prison.

“I was so worried about being taken away from my family and I was nearly locked up in jail. But I was lucky because of my family. They are strong, they love me and they know I am smart. They found a way to keep me safe. I am alright now, but lots of kids aren’t so lucky,” said Dujuan.

Currently in all Australian states and territories, 10 year old children can be arrested, charged and sent to prison.

The Human Rights Law Centre, which Dujuan is addressing the Council on behalf of, has been calling on Australian governments to ‘raise the age’ of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 to bring Australian standards into line with international law.

Shahleena Musk, a Larrakia woman and Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is also attending the Council session, said it was a simple reform that would make a profound difference.

“These harsh and out of date laws are forcing too many Aboriginal kids into the quicksand of the criminal legal system. Any government that is serious about tackling our nation’s shocking over-imprisonment rates would make this one small change. Raising the age from 10 to 14 would make a world of difference to so many kids like Dujuan who really just needed a helping hand to get him back on track,” said Ms Musk.

Dujuan is also in Geneva to brief the Committee on the Rights of the Child, with the Australian Human Rights Commission, and for a screening of the film, In My Blood It Runs, at the UN. The screening will be hosted by Australia’s Permanent Mission to the UN in collaboration with the AHRC.

The documentary film follows Dujuan as a ten-year old when he was struggling at school and facing increasing scrutiny from welfare and the police. Yet to this backdrop, Dujuan shares his wisdom of history and the complex world around him and his spark and intelligence shines through.

The film reminds audiences that the knowledge systems and culture of Aboriginal peoples are alive and well and hold the solutions to so many of the policy challenges our governments are creating. Dujuan’s journey highlights the importance of First Nations-led education and the need to restore agency to families to make decisions that effect their own lives, and their children’s lives.  

For further, information please contact:
Tom Clarke (in Melbourne) on 0422 545 763 or tom.clarke@hrlc.org.au 
or Edwina MacDonald (in Geneva) on +41 779 531 557

Photo credit: Maya Newell