Politics

Every Single Kid Currently In The Northern Territory’s Youth Detention Centres Is Indigenous

Every. Single. Kid.

don dale youth detention

Hidden in the midst of the Northern Territory’s Estimates Committee debate last week was a truly harrowing statistic: 100 percent of young people currently in youth detention in the Northern Territory are Indigenous.

Every single kid locked up in the Northern Territory is Indigenous, according to the government’s own numbers. That should ring alarm bells.

The Northern Territory has long had a much higher proportion of Indigenous kids in detention than any other state, but 100 percent is especially high. In 2016, the proportion was 97 percent. In 2015-16, it was 94 percent.

Compare that to the nation as a whole, where as of 2017 Indigenous young people represented 53 percent of all youth in detention (a number that is still extraordinarily high when you consider that Indigenous Australians are estimated to make up around 3 percent of the total population). That means that in 2017, Indigenous young people (between the ages of 10-17) were 24 times as likely to be in detention compared to non-Indigenous youth.

The Northern Territory detention centres we’re talking about here, by the way, are Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre — the centres where abuses were so bad they triggered a Royal Commission. That Royal Commission has made its recommendations, some of which have been implemented, some of which haven’t. But whether or not Don Dale is a better place to be now, it should be clear that it should not be a place entirely full of Indigenous kids.

And according to the same Senate Estimates hearing that revealed 100 percent of kids in detention are Indigenous, the total number of kids in detention haven’t decreased all that much. There are an average of 38 kids in detention each day in 2018, which is down from an average of 49 per day in 2017. It’s up, however, from the average of 27 kids a day a decade ago in 2008-9. This is what the trend looks like, according to figures from the Northern Territory Correctional Services and Youth Justice Annual Statistics 2015-16.

indigenous kids in detention

Source: Northern Territory Correctional Services and Youth Justice Annual Statistics 2015-16

There’s plenty more worrying data out there — this is just a snippet. It’s an absolutely horrifying snippet though. We should be doing better.

You can read the full Senate Estimates transcript here if you’d like to see it for yourself.