One year on from the Royal Commission, the NT youth justice system remains broken

One year on from the Royal Commission, the NT youth justice system remains broken

To mark the anniversary of the release of the Royal Commission into Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory’s final report, the Change the Record Coalition including human rights organisations is calling on the NT Gunner Government to raise the age of criminal responsibility and get children out of harmful youth prisons.

“Everyone wants their children to be safe and supported but the Gunner Government is putting children in danger by reopening Don Dale and continuing business as usual after the Royal Commission called for a ‘profound shift from past practice’,” Co-Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, Cheryl Axleby said. “Tear gassing children is a significant human rights violation and sees the NT Government mark the anniversary of the Royal Commission choosing to subject kids to further trauma and harm,” said Ms Axleby.

The Gunner Government reported on 11th November that children who had been locked away in police cells were returned to Don Dale following an incident where tear gas was used against the children in Don Dale.

“There's no time to wait: the NT Government can make changes right now to fix this broken system. It urgently needs to raise the minimum age it locks up children from 10 years old to 14, and fund Indigenous-led programs like Balunu, which will support our kids not to end up in the system in the first place, and to stay out of detention,” said Rodney Dillon, Indigenous Rights Adviser with Amnesty International.

“We need to see more action from the NT Government to get children out of prison,” said Ms Axleby. “Expediting measures like raising the age of criminal responsibility and appointing a Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People will be a positive step to keep children out of dangerous prisons like Don Dale,” she said.

“The Gunner Government cannot just sit on its hands while children continue to suffer. Don Dale is a dangerous powder keg. Just in the last week children have been tear gassed and held in solitary confinement,” said Shahleena Musk, Senior Lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre. “Punishment and confinement will not achieve the change we want, the future of youth justice is in supporting children to thrive, with their families and in their communities,” she said.

“Kids should be supported in the community, including through mental health supports, bail hostels, education and training programs. It is well and truly time for the Gunner Government to show us what progress has been made in this past year in line with the recommendations of the Royal Commission aimed at preventing children being funnelled into prison,” said Ms Musk.

Related: Don Dale pressure cooker boils over as NT Government drags its heels

For media comment please contact:

For Cheryl Axleby please contact Karly Warner on 0423 610 587

For Rodney Dillon please contact Jenny Stopher on 0423 280 658

For Shahleena Musk please contact Michelle Bennett on 0419 100 519

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