28 November 2017

The gruesome reality inside Australia’s youth detention centres

Author :
Dylan Voller in a spit hood and shackled into chair. Photo: ABC

ABC’s Four Corners shook the country last year when it revealed the abuses inside the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

Investigative reporter Caro Meldrum-Hanna exposed to Australia’s population how children and youth were abused by detention staff. The image of 15-year-old Dylan Voller in a spit hood and shackled into chair has become an iconic image of the gruesome truth that’s been happening behind closed doors.

Within 36 hours from that the show broadcast, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a royal commission into juvenile justice and child protection.

The $54 million final report, Royal Commission into the Protectionand Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, has now finally been released.  The report includes 143 findings and 226 discrete recommendations with some recommendations being particularly welcomed, for example closing the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and High Security Unit, increasing family support mechanisms, increasing diversionary approaches and increasing engagement with Aboriginal organisations in child protection and youth justice.

"The failures we have identified have cost children and families greatly, they have not made communities safer and they are shocking," Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White said according to Sydney Morning Herald.

The report stated that "Senior executives and the management and staff at the detention centres implemented and/or maintained and/or tolerated a detention system seemingly intent on 'breaking' rather than 'rehabilitating' the children and young people in their care," Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The commission makes several recommendations to both the NT government and the Federal government, and it is estimated that if these recommendations are put in place, $335 million could be saved.

NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner promised to take action and work in partnership with communities and the federal government to see improved outcomes following the Inquest.

But the Commission has also been criticised for not going far enough, particularly in two areas, the ABC reported.

The Commission makes the recommendation to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years. This is however not in line with international standards.

The UN Committee on Rights of the Child urged in 2007 that the minimum age for criminal responsibility should be higher than 12, and recommended the age of 14 or 16 instead.

The second failing, and the most prominent failure of the report, is that it doesn’t include a recommendation of criminal charges for the torture the children and youth experienced inside the centres that were investigated.

Former NT Corrections Minister John Elferink has condemned the lack of recommendations for criminal prosecution.

"What they haven't recommended, is a single criminal charge to be lodged against any human being associated with youth detention in the Northern Territory," the ABC reported.

Written by : Mimmie Wilhelmson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

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