Culture

The NT Royal Commission Just Called For The Immediate Closure Of Don Dale

"Youth detention centres were not fit for accommodating, let alone rehabilitating, children and young people."

don dale youth detention

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has called for the immediate closure of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, in a blistering new report that uncovers “systemic and shocking failures” in the Territory’s child protection systems.

The report, released today, is the culmination of the Royal Commission’s inquiry which began in September 2016 after the ABC’s Four Corners exposed instances of child prisoners in the Don Dale centre being strapped to chairs, confined to isolation chambers and tear gassed.

The Royal Commission found evidence of widespread failures which were “known and ignored at the highest levels”. Across the NT detention system, isolation was frequently used as a punishment, children were denied basic needs like water, food and toilets, and were bribed to commit humiliating, degrading or violent acts.

As Four Corners revealed, kids in detention were also routinely restrained using force to head and neck areas, thrown to the ground, and subjected to verbal abuse. Ultimately, the Commission found that the NT’s youth detention centres “were not fit for accommodating, let alone rehabilitating, children and young people”.

In addition to calling for the closure of Don Dale, the report also calls for the age of criminal responsibility to be increased from 10 to 12, children under 14 to be detained only for serious crimes, a ban on the use of tear gas, and body cameras to be worn by detention centre staff. The further recommendations made by the report span pages.

“The failures we have identified have cost children and families greatly, they have not made communities safer and they are shocking,” said Commissioner Margaret White AO and Commissioner Mick Gooda.

“These things happened on our watch, in our country, to our children.”

“The tragic conclusion we have drawn is that not only have the systems failed to address challenges faced by children and young people, that have in some cases made the problems worse.”

The Commissioners also noted that implementing their recommended changes will deliver savings of around $335.5 million by 2027, but emphasised that “human costs dwarf financial considerations”.

“If no action is taken these will continue to escalate beyond the already unacceptable levels that are seen in the Northern Territory,” they concluded.

The full report, which is harrowing, can be read here.

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Feature image via ABC 4 Corners