The Northern Territory Government today announced it will close Don Dale – the youth prison renowned for the systemic abuse and mistreatment of Territory children.
Shahleena Musk, a Senior Lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the closure couldn’t come soon enough and urged the Turnbull Government to help fund the creation of safe, home-like facilities built for children.
“We’re talking about kids at the crossroads. We need to do all we can to help them get their lives back on track. It is well and truly time we closed the dark chapter of Don Dale. But to do this we need both the NT and Turnbull Governments to do everything they can to ensure no child is ever consigned to such a brutal environment again,” said Ms Musk.
A Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was held last year following the ABC’s Four Corners revelations of children at the Don Dale youth prison being hooded and tied to chairs, stripped naked and tear-gassed.
In its response last week, the Turnbull Government failed to provide the national leadership and funding required to fix all states and territories broken youth justice systems.
“Rather than passing the buck, Prime Minister Turnbull should support the Northern Territory to do what actually works to help rebuild children's lives. We’re talking about small, home like facilities close to families and communities - facilities that help children develop and thrive. The Turnbull Government needs to put its money where its mouth is,” said Ms Musk.
The recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children are relevant to all states and territories because they detail how to prevent abuses and modernise youth justice systems so that they serve a positive purpose by helping children to succeed in life.
“We owe it to the kids that were abused to get this right and make sure history is not repeated. All states and territories should be following the NT's lead by closing their super-max youth jails and replace them with small age-appropriate facilities. The only thing more horrifying than the abuses we saw in Don Dale would be a failure by governments across Australia to do everything they could to ensure these atrocities never happened again,” said Ms Musk.
For interviews or further information please call:
Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519