It is troubling in the era of the Black Lives Matter movement that Indigenous children in Tasmania are vastly over-represented when it comes to strip searching and pat-downs while in custody.
Figures obtained by The Examiner show the vast over-representation of Indigenous young people being strip searched in custody. A Right to Information request revealed 102 children, including three aged 13 and 26 aged 14, were strip searched at either the Launceston or Hobart reception centres between January 1 and May 26, 2019, before new risk assessment guidelines were introduced.
After that, 71 children were either partially or fully strip searched by the end of the year, while 105 underwent pat-downs.
Of those children, about a quarter identified as Indigenous.
Aboriginal Tasmanians were 4.6 per cent of the total population in the latest Census.
The new guidelines from May 27 included the assessment of youth as low, moderate or high risk of harm to themselves or others to determine what level of the search was required, rather than a mandatory strip search.
Critics of the practice argue early exposure to the justice system has left these children vulnerable and at the mercy of practices that could be traumatic, and are invasive, even for adults.
Questions also have to be raised about why Indigenous young people are over-represented in these figures.
While the reasons for the discrepancy is unclear, it remains a fact there is a disparity that needs addressing.
While some changes have been made, thanks to a push from the Children's Commissioner, it appears that there is a lot more work to do to address this divide.
If new methods, such as recommended scanning technology, are available, then it is worth investigating and implementing to avoid such intrusive practices.
In some emergency instances it would be unavoidable for police not to carry out strip searches or pat-downs, but in many cases alternative measure should be used.
Just because we have always done it one way, doesn't mean it's the best way.