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Issue #1704      September 30, 2015

Shocking child abuse

Report slams NT treatment of juvenile prisoners

The Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner has released a shocking report detailing violent abuse against Aboriginal children in detention, including the use of tear gas and hoods put over their heads.

The report uncovered evidence showing children were kept in solitary confinement without water for days at the Don Dale Detention Centre, in breach of the NT’s laws.

The NT Children’s Commissioner investigated the circumstances leading up to, and after, the transfer of six teenagers to an adult prison in August last year following an incident at Don Dale.

Amnesty International Australia Indigenous rights adviser Rodney Dillon, a Palawa man, told the Koori Mail that it was beyond comprehension that children could be treated so badly at the hands of the state in this day and age.

“The Children’s Commissioner report has confirmed what was suspected all along: The tear gassing of juveniles at Don Dale was an overreach and overreaction,” he said.

“Adding to that is the news that the teenagers who were transferred to the adult prison, after being gassed, were also hooded and taken to the maximum security jail block by force.

Blatant breach

“It’s not just international protocols that are being ignored in the NT. The report documents how one of the kids was only 14 years of age, yet was still transferred to the adult prison, which the Children’s Commissioner noted was a blatant breach of the NT’s own Youth Justice Act.”

The Commissioner noted some of the children had “spit hoods” placed over their heads on arrival at the adult prison.

The investigation found that two of the children were not involved in the incident and had been compliant throughout the disturbance, yet were still gassed, transferred and part of the group who were punished.

“The report found, most disturbingly, that claims from Corrections that the detainees had ‘assaulted staff with shards of glass, bricks and steel poles’, were ‘inaccurate and misleading’,” Mr Dillon said.

In the lead-up to the incident, the children had been held in confinement for at least 22 hours a day without access to outside light or drinking water, for periods of between six to 17 days.

“I just don’t know where you would start with treating people that bad. I don’t know how the police haven’t charged these people with abuse of children,” Mr Dillon said. “If anyone did anyone of those things to children in their own home, it would be classified as child abuse.”

High rate

The NT has the second highest rate of Indigenous incarceration in the country, following WA. Indigenous young people make up an average of 96 percent of all young people in detention in the NT.

Mr Dillon said the abuse must have “scared the living daylights” out of other children in detention.

“I’d like to see the NT government treat Aboriginal kids in prison – all kids in prison – with some kind of respect, provide a good education system that works, and to bring in policy that tries to reduce levels of recidivism,” he said.

“Detention of children is supposed to be about rehabilitation.

“It’s very sad that this is happening in Australia today. These prison officers would nearly qualify for a job at (notorious American detention centre) Guantánamo Bay.

“I feel sick to my stomach as an Aboriginal person that our kids are being treated like that today.

“There’s no excuse for the NT government. They should hang their heads in shame. Chief Minister Adam Giles should go and have a talk with his minister and they should both have a look in the mirror and ask whether they would like their children to be treated like that.”

Koori Mail

Next article – Peace at The Block

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