Bail hostel for Aboriginal children

Issue 

Bail hostel for Aboriginal children

By Kyla Slaven

SYDNEY — A bail hostel for Aboriginal children will open next month in Chippendale. The project was designed for Aboriginal children on remand, who can be refused bail and forced to live in a detention centre because they have no accommodation.

"Unfortunately, at the moment, if a juvenile doesn't have anywhere to go ... then they can be refused bail", said Tony Park, spokesperson for justice minister Terry Griffiths. This can result in quite long periods in a detention centre. "The average waiting time at the local children's court for most offences is about 14 weeks ... even longer for the more serious offences."

The hostel, the first of its kind in NSW, is for Aboriginal children awaiting trial who are homeless, have unsatisfactory home situations or have no accommodation in the city where they face charges.

"We are trying to break the cycle of incarceration", said Shane Phillips, from the Redfern Aboriginal Corporation, which is involved in the project.

The hostel will house four to six children, who will be supervised by house parents. The aim is to create a "family atmosphere", according to Park.

Phillips said it is also important that these children are "watched by their own people" and that the project is "culturally appropriate". He said that until the program is expanded, it should be "strictly for the kids from Redfern."

The need for a bail hostel specifically for Aboriginal children is "simply because the number of Aborigines in custody far outweighs their representation in the population", according to Park. Twenty-four per cent of children in custody are Aboriginal.

Phillips said the minister should "listen to the Aboriginal community more". Future projects should be planned and developed from within the Aboriginal community.

The hostel was initiated by the Jaapalpa Aboriginal Corporation in Redfern. The corporation is leasing a house in Chippendale from St Vincent De Paul, and the Office of Juvenile Justice is providing approximately $100,000.