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

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

Don Dale is ablaze almost one year since the Royal Commission recommended it be closed.

While the Northern Territory Government accepted all 226 recommendations from the Royal Commission and promised to institute "the most comprehensive overhaul of youth justice and child protection in NT history," Shahleena Musk, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that the Gunner Government has been all words, yet little action.

"The Gunner Government cannot just sit on its hands. The notorious iron gates of Don Dale should be closed for good. The future of youth justice in the Northern Territory must be in supporting children to thrive, with their families and in their communities," said Ms Musk.

Dylan Voller, whose torturous treatment, revealed on ABC’s Four Corners, sparked the Royal Commission, said that we need to hear from the children inside.

"I know that this is a cry for help from the kids locked away. Kids don’t act up for nothing – they act up when they are scared and they can’t be heard. If Four Corners taught the Government anything, it’s that kids should be given what I was denied – the opportunity to grow up supported and with freedom," said Mr Voller.

Since the fire broke out, around 24 children have been moved to the Darwin police watch house – in holding cells specifically designed for adults to be detained before going to court. Most of the children are awaiting a trial and have not yet been convicted.

"These children have been through a lot – they have been locked in isolation, tear gassed, and denied their basic rights. Forcing them to move from one unsafe facility to another is not the answer. Children on remand should be with their families or in therapeutic alternatives, like bail hostels or treatment facilities – not holed up in a police cell," said Ms Musk.

The Gunner Government has been on notice for months about degrading conditions in Don Dale and Alice Springs youth jails. It is currently being sued in the Federal Court facing allegations of ongoing poor treatment and denial of children’s rights including treating children in a cruel and inhuman way. Just last week the Royal Commissioners were in the Northern Territory again urging the Government to implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations. 

"The Gunner Government must act today and fix this horrible mess. Children and staff within the centre are being placed at risk. The answer is not in more razor wire and prisons, but in community-based support programs that help kids succeed in life," said Ms Musk.

For interviews call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519