VACCHO urges Victorian Government to commit to resourcing UN’s anti-torture protocol

Jan 19, 2024

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) joins a legion of advocate groups calling out the Victorian Government for failing to implement Australia’s obligations pursuant to the United Nations anti-torture protocol, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). 

An open letter to Victorian Attorney General, the Hon. Jaclyn Symes MLC, expressed the groups deep concern of the impact the failure to implement OPCAT continues to have on youths in Victoria’s prison system.

“The impact of this failure by the Victorian Government is acutely felt by children locked away in Victoria’s youth prisons. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children continue to be overrepresented in, and harmed by, youth prisons, as are multicultural children, in particular those from African, Maori and Pasifika backgrounds” the open letter reads.

VACCHO CEO, Dr. Jill Gallagher AO (HonLLD) says that contact with the justice system further exacerbates the intergenerational trauma and cycles of disadvantage that undermine the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families in Victoria.

“In Victoria we have seen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 12 and 13 locked up when they should be thriving at school and playing sport on the weekend,” said Dr. Gallagher

“OPCAT must be implemented in full – as a society in 2024 we must not allow our Boorai to be left behind.”

The key ask of the signatories of the open letter, who include the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, is for the Victorian Government to commit to properly resourcing OPCAT implementation in May’s budget.

VACCHO has long advocated to raising the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age – something the open letter points out could enhance the long overdue youth justice reforms due this year.

Read the open letter here

Read the Human Rights Law Centre media release here

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.