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Issue #1709      November 4, 2015

Action urged on NT report

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) has called for urgent action to address issues raised in the NT Children’s Commissioner’s alarming report into incidents at the. Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in August, 2014.

NATSILS chair Shane Duffy said the report provides indisputable evidence of a system that has failed, and catalogues numerous breaches of the NT Youth Justice Act.

The report shows that:

  • children were tear-gassed when no meaningful attempt had been made to negotiate a peaceful outcome without the use of force;
  • solitary confinement was used in breach of the Youth Justice Act;
  • the conditions in which children were held were inhumane;
  • hoods and handcuffs were used on children indiscriminately; and
  • the public were misled about what happened.

One of the youth justice officers interviewed for the report said he didn’t blame the kids for “going off” – he would have done so if he had been treated like they had and was “surprised it didn’t happen sooner”.

Mr Duffy said NATSILS is extremely concerned that the NT government has still not made a commitment to implement the findings of the Children’s Commissioner’s report, which was released more than a month ago, or that criminal investigations or disciplinary proceedings would be taken against staff who have acted unlawfully or inappropriately.

“The brutality exposed in this report is shocking,” Mr Duffy said.

“We call on the NT government to immediately respond to the Children’s Commissioner’s report and commit to implementing each and every one of the recommendations.

“The community has lost confidence in the youth detention system. It is simply not working. We can’t keep going down this same track.

“Children in detention are amongst the most vulnerable kids in our community. The evidence shows that they need therapeutic programs and the support of fully trained, professional staff if we are serious about their rehabilitation.

“It is time that youth justice was separated from adult correctional services so that young people get the specialist treatment they need to turn their lives around.”

The Law Council of Australia also added its voice to the call for action, with director Arthur Moses saying he is deeply concerned.

“If these findings are true, the inhumane management of the Don Dale incident is a blight against Australia’s human rights profile,” he said.

“It’s important to remember that more than 90 percent of youth detainees in the NT are Indigenous. Children are, of course, the most vulnerable group in the Australian community and it is critical the NT government takes swift and effective action to implement the findings of this report.

“If it fails to do so, the federal government should intervene to deal with the situation.”

Koori Mail

Next article – “New” economy another way to suppress workers’ rights

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