Can Human Rights Standards Counter Australia's Punitive Youth Justice Practices?

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Recent practices in the administration of youth justice across Australian state and territory jurisdictions reveal a powerful tension between the punitive imperative of “tough on crime” political populism, and internationally agreed minimum standards relevant to the treatment of children. In questioning the extent to which human rights standards can and should be used as a useful tool to counter punitive youth justice practices, this article identifies major points of discrepancy between Australia’s international legal obligations and the doctrine and operation of domestic criminal law as it applies to children in conflict with the law. Examining youth justice “crises” in two Australian states, the Northern Territory and Victoria, the article concludes that while child rights are not directly justiciable in Australia, global standards on youth justice provide a unifying discourse that is resistant to the vagaries of populism, and which can guide reform for child rights compliant youth justice legislation and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-227
Number of pages31
JournalInternational Journal of Children's Rights
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2018


  • youth justice
  • human rights
  • youth detention
  • child rights
  • criminal law

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