Calls for change to keeps Aussie teens out adult prisons

By Petrina Berry

In Queensland, children in youth detention are transferred to adult prisons when they are 17. Photo / File.
In Queensland, children in youth detention are transferred to adult prisons when they are 17. Photo / File.

Queensland's chief guardian of children has called for laws to be changed to keep 17-year-olds out of adult prisons.

In Queensland, children in youth detention are transferred to adult prisons when they are 17.

The state's Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Elizabeth Fraser has called for the age to be raised to 18 while giving evidence to Queensland's child protection inquiry on Monday.

Ms Fraser said it would be better for 17-year-olds to serve their time in a youth detention centre until they turn 18.

"I would argue (children) under the age of 18 should be treated within the youth justice system as a matter of priority," Ms Fraser said.

The commission is an independent statutory body that protects the rights of young people in detention and oversees the child safety and youth justice systems.

Earlier, the inquiry heard a large volume of non-serious complaints to Queensland's child protection service was hampering efforts to help kids most at risk of harm.

Former Communities Department director-general Linda Apelt told the inquiry the child safety department was often bogged down with complaints that could be better dealt with by other departments, including health and education.

"We are diluting its ability to provide a safety net to those most vulnerable children by asking it to sift and sort a whole range of other concerns that could be better dealt with elsewhere in the system," Ms Apelt said.

The inquiry also heard foster children as young as 12 months old were being "drugged to their eyeballs" in Queensland to control their behaviour.

In a written submission, the Youth Affairs Network claimed seven per cent of children under four years of age in out-of-home care were on medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

The not-for-profit group wants the inquiry to delve into what it says is the "over-use" of medication to control the behaviour of children through a form of "chemical restraint".

Network director Siyavash Doostkhah told AAP toddlers were also being given powerful medication.

"Powerful drugs are being used on kids as young as one year old," Mr Doostkhah said.

"Various therapies that do not include drugging these kids to their eyeballs are not being offered."

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