“AMSANT welcomes this plan to address the needs of vulnerable children and families. This announcement is consistent with the Royal Commission and the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory’s recommendations for a public health approach to focus on greater investment in early childhood and early intervention.
We now need the Commonwealth Government of Australia to work with us and look forward to collaboration through the Tripartite Forum.”
John Paterson, CEO, Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) said that the peak body welcomes this announcement.
” We have consulted and engaged with the sectors widely, and we will continue to do so as meaningful and long-term reform cannot be achieved by Government alone,
Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal peak bodies particularly have an important and central role in shaping the design and delivery of local reforms, as Aboriginal children are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice systems.
Together we will achieve the generational change that children, young people and families in the Northern Territory want and deserve.”
Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said that the implementation plan has been informed through hundreds of hours of consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, community sector organisations and representatives of NT government agencies.
The Territory Labor Government today announced that it will invest an historic $229.6 million over the next five years to continue the overhaul of the child protection and youth justice systems, and implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.
The Royal Commission delivered 227 recommendations in its final report late last year, and the NT Government accepted the intent and direction of all recommendations.
The 217 recommendations which relate to action by the NT Government have been allocated to 17 work programs. Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield today released the five-year implementation plan Safe, Thriving and Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families.
This Whole-of-Government approach will drive the changes to build safer communities.
“We are investing in generational change to create a brighter future for all Territory children and families. Too many of our vulnerable children are caught in the child protection and youth justice systems, and become adult criminals,” Ms Wakefield said.
“This record investment over five years will fund the systemic and long-term changes that are needed to put our children and families back on the right path.
“The implementation plan will deliver a Child Protection system that acts to support families early.
The plan will also deliver a Youth Justice system that will hold young people accountable for their actions while providing them with the best supports to make positive life choices.
“Health care, housing, education, family support, police and justice services, are all part of the implementation plan as they are crucial to tackling the root causes of child protection and youth justice.”
The funding includes $66.9 million over five years for a new information technology system that will enable better protection of children from abuse and improve youth justice.
The need for this new client information system and data brokerage service was highlighted again most recently in the review of an alleged sexual assault of a child in Tenant Creek.
“This new information system is crucial to help staff make informed decisions about children and keep them safe from abuse and harm. It will also link with health and police databases to allow for coordinated action,” Ms Wakefield said.
Other investments include:
$71.4 Million to replace Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres
$2.8 Million over four years to improve care and protection practice
$5.4 Million over four years to transform out-of-home care
$11.4 Million over four years to expand the number of Child and Family Centres from six to seventeen
$9.9 Million over four years to divert young people from crime and stop future offending
$22.9 Million over five years to improve youth detention operations and reduce recidivism
$8.9 Million over four years to empower local decision making and community led reform
Ms Wakefield said that the implementation plan has been informed through hundreds of hours of consultation and engagement with key stakeholders, community sector organisations and representatives of NT government agencies.
“The Territory Labor Government has been reforming the child protection and youth justice systems since August 2016.
We have consulted and engaged with the sectors widely, and we will continue to do so as meaningful and long-term reform cannot be achieved by Government alone,” she said.
“Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal peak bodies particularly have an important and central role in shaping the design and delivery of local reforms, as Aboriginal children are over-represented in the child protection and youth justice systems.
“Together we will achieve the generational change that children, young people and families in the Northern Territory want and deserve.”
“The Royal Commission final report recommendations aligns with the path of reform that we have undertaken since coming to Government, including sweeping alcohol reforms announced yesterday.”
217 of the recommendations relate to action by the Northern Territory Government, which have been mapped into a framework of 17 work programs.
There are another 10 recommendations which we accept the intent and direction of, however they require actions by the Commonwealth Government and other organisations.
“We need coordinated effort to make effective, meaningful and generational change to our youth justice and child protection systems. Now more than ever, we need the support of the Commonwealth Government working in collaboration with the Northern Territory Government and the Aboriginal-controlled and non-government sector.”
Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield announced that the Territory Labor Government will accept the intent and direction of all 227 Royal Commission recommendations, delivered in its final report late last year.
Picture Above : NT Minister Dale Wakefield with the support from some of the NT’s peak Aboriginal bodies, including NACCHO members Olga Havnen from Danila Dilba ACCHO and John Paterson from AMSANT saying the government’s approach is the right start
“Our child protection and youth justice systems are broken and only fundamental, wholesale reform of the systems can improve outcomes for the Aboriginal children and young people in the Northern Territory,”
“These reforms need to be driven and led by Aboriginal organisations and people. We advocate for a new single act to regulate both youth justice and child protection systems.”
John Paterson, CEO of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory (AMSANT) said that the peak body welcomes the Territory Government’s response to the Royal Commission recommendations
” The Northern Territory Government says it supports either in full or in principle all 227 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection, but does not appear to have committed funds to make the necessary sweeping changes ”
The report was borne out of the treatment of children in the care of the Northern Territory and it is a story of our failures to care, protect and build those who needed it most.
Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield said that the Territory Labor Government took responsibility for those failures and, since August 2016, has embarked on historic youth justice and child protection reforms.
This includes the $18.2 million a year overhaul of youth justice in the Northern Territory, announced one year ago.
Last month the Territory Labor Government also announced that $70 million will be allocated to replace both the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the Alice Springs Youth
Detention Centre with two new youth justice centres.
“Making meaningful change that improves the lives of children and families is at the heart of the Territory Labor Government’s decision making,” Ms Wakefield said.
“We made an election promise that we would get young people back on the right path and away from a cycle of crime. In order for our communities to be safer and stronger, every Territory child MUST have pathways for a bright future.
The 17 work programs will come under four major objectives:
Putting Children and Families at the Centre
Improving Care and Protection
Improving Youth Justice
Strengthening Governance and Systems
The work programs framework is a Whole-of-Government approach to consider the most effective way to allocate budget, resources, and timeframes that will be required to implement reform.
The Territory Labor Government is considering a submission for resourcing impacts as part of the 2018-19 Budget development process and will provide an implementation plan for consideration in late March.
The key reforms that have been underway since August 2016 include:
$18.2 million Better Outcomes for Youth Justice reform package
$3 million invested in Family Enhanced Support Services (FESS)
Bail support services and accommodation facilities
Expansion of victim conferencing
Establishing five year NGO funding arrangements
The establishment of Youth Outreach and Reengagement Teams (YORET)
Recruitment of Transition Care Officers
Media Coverage ABC Darwin
NT royal commission: Government promises overhaul of ‘broken’ child protection and youth justice
The Northern Territory Government says it supports either in full or in principle all 227 of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection, but does not appear to have committed funds to make the necessary sweeping changes.
The NT Government has offered “in principle” support for almost half the recommendations, supports the rest
It has not announced what funding it will put forward or for which measures
The announcement comes after a week of sustained fire after a toddler was allegedly raped following Territory Families’ failure to act on 21 notifications
On Thursday it announced its full response; however, about half of the recommendations were listed as “supported in principle” and it was not clear what that meant in terms of government action and funding commitment.
“I am determined that this is not going to be another report that sits on a shelf.
“We have to make generational change to make a difference, and we are absolutely committed to that.”
“For those of us who have been working in the youth justice system for the past 10 or so years and seen these issues play out, these are really welcome steps,” Jesuit Social Services CEO Jared Sharp said.
“This is our once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. We’ve got a royal commission that’s given us the blueprint, we now have to implement it.”
The Government says 217 recommendations relate to action it can take, with another 10 recommendations requiring action by the Federal Government and other organisations.
The Government has split the recommendations into 17 work programs divided into four groups: putting children and families first; improving care and protection of children; improving youth justice systems; and strengthening governance.
Some of the major recommendations which have only been listed as having in-principle support included:
Increasing the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12
That youths under 14 cannot be detained except in exceptional circumstances
Overhauling the foster care system
Overhauling the Care and Protection of Children Act NT
Creating, staffing and resourcing a Commission for Children and Young People
Having a ratio of one teacher to five students and teachers appropriately qualified in special education
Having sufficient female youth detention officers to oversee female detainees
Overhauling the case management system
Introducing body-worn video cameras
That children can only be held by police for up to four hours without charge.
Funding did not appear to be set aside for the extensive changes, but the Government said it was “considering a submission for resourcing impacts as part of the 2018-19 budget development process and will provide an implementation plan” for consideration in late March.
Children’s Commissioner Colleen Gwynne has previously said she wanted a firmer commitment.”As a commissioner when I get those sort of responses from service providers I don’t accept that, I say ‘You either accept it or you don’t accept it’.”
Announcement follows alleged rape of Tennant Creek toddler
‘ This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again.
APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection.
Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’
John Paterson CEO AMSANT and APO NT Spokesperson :see Part 2 for full Press Release
” We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works
“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee
“You don’t set up a royal commission and then walk away from the implementation of it. I urge the Federal and NT Government to give resources directly to Aboriginal community controlled groups, as white non-government organisations “need to get out of that space”. Those days are over.
“We are much more strategically placed and our service delivery is much wider.”
National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations chief executive Pat Turner calling on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to “put his money with his mouth is.
“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.”
North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins see Part 5 below
Part 1: Don Dale royal commission demands sweeping change – is there political will to make it happen? From The Conversation
The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory’s final report, which was handed down on Friday, revealed “systemic and shocking failures” in the territory’s youth justice and child protection systems.
The commission was triggered following ABC Four Corners’ broadcasting of images of detainee Dylan Voller hooded and strapped to a restraint chair, as well as footage of children being stripped, punched and tear-gassed by guards at the Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres.
The commission’s findings demonstrate the need for systemic change. However, the commission will not, in itself, bring about that change. Its capacity to make lasting change lies with the government implementing its recommendations.
What did the commission find?
The commission found that the NT youth detention centres were not fit for accommodating – let alone rehabilitating – children and young people.
It also found that detainees were subjected to regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment. This included verbal abuse, racist remarks, physical abuse, and humiliation.
There was a further failure to follow procedures and requirements under youth justice legislation. Children were denied basic human needs, and the system failed to comply with basic human rights standards and safeguards, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The commission also found that the NT child protection system has failed to provide appropriate and adequate support to some young people to assist them to avoid prison.
Importantly, the commission found that isolation “continues to be used inappropriately, punitively and inconsistently”. Children in the high security unit:
… continue to be confined in a wholly inappropriate, oppressive, prison-like environment … in confined spaces with minimal out of cell time and little to do for long periods of time.
What did the commission recommend?
Based on these findings, the commission recommended wide-ranging reforms to the youth justice and child protection systems.
Not surprisingly, a central focus of the recommendations relate to detention. They ranged from closing the Don Dale centre to significant restrictions on the use of force, strip-searching and isolation, and banning the use of tear gas, spit hoods, and restraint chairs.
There is a focus on greater accountability for the use of detention through extending the Commissioner for Children and Young People’s monitoring role. Recommendations also cover health care (including mental health and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder screening), education, training, and throughcare services for children exiting detention.
Among its suite of proposed reforms, the commission recommended developing a ten-year strategy to tackle child protection and prevention of harm to children, and establishing an NT-wide network of centres to provide community services to families.
Youth justice reforms include improving the operation of bail to reduce the unnecessary use of custodial remand; expanding diversionary programs in rural and remote locations; and operating new models of secure detention, based on principles of trauma-informed practice.
Adequate and ongoing training and education for police, lawyers, youth justice officers, out-of-home-care staff and judicial officers in child and adolescent development is also recommended.
The commission also emphasised the importance of developing partnerships with Indigenous organisations and communities in the child protection and youth justice systems. Several organisations in written submissions to the commission identified the importance of appropriately resourcing community-controlled, and locally developed and led, programs for Indigenous young people.
Summary Key recommendations ( added by NACCHO)
1. Close Don Dale Youth Centre (and report progress on this by February 2018) and replace with a new, purpose-built facility.
2. Immediately close the high security unit at Don Dale.
3. Raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 .
4. No child under 14 to be ordered to serve detention unless they have been convicted of a serious and violent crime, present a serious risk to the community and their sentence is approved by the head of the proposed new children’s court.
5. Set up a new Children’s Court.
6. Set up a specialist youth division within the police force and make sure all police cells are suitable for detaining children.
7. Establish a Commission for Children and Young People, with jurisdiction for all children and young people in the NT.
8. Stop the use of tear gas and continue to ban spit hoods and the restraint chair.
9. Set up at least 20 family support centres to help children and their families.
10. Develop a 10 year strategy for generational change around child protection and the prevention of harm to children. This would be led by the NT chief minister with specific targets and measures.
Increasing the age of criminal responsibility a good place to start
One of the commission’s most significant recommendations is to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 12 years, and only allowing children under 14 to be sentenced to detention for serious offences.
If this recommendation were to be implemented it is likely to have far-reaching implications across Australia. Currently, the minimum age is ten years in all states and territories.
Of particular relevance to the commission is the adverse affect of a low minimum age of criminal responsibility on Indigenous children.
The majority of children under the age of 14 who come before Australian youth courts are Indigenous. In 2015-16, 67% of children placed in detention under the age of 14 were Indigenous. This concentration is even higher among those aged 12 or younger.
Nationally, 73% of children placed in detention and 74% of children placed on community-based supervision in 2015-16 were Indigenous.
Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility opens the door to responding to children’s needs without relying on criminalisation, given its short- and long-term negative impacts.
It enables a conversation about the best responses to children who often – as the commission’s findings acknowledged – have a range of issues. These can include trauma, mental health disorders and disability, coming from highly disadvantaged backgrounds, having spent time in out-of-home care, and – particularly among Indigenous children – being removed from their families and communities.
A positive outcome from the commission will require political will and leadership to respond effectively to broader systemic issues. Raising the minimum age of criminal responsibility is a good place to start
Part 2 : APO NT welcomes Royal Commission final report and calls for immediate commitment from Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments
The Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory (APO NT) welcomes the Royal Commission’s final report, handed down in Darwin today.
Over the past 14 months, the Royal Commission has examined the failings of the youth justice and child protection systems in the Northern Territory and heard ideas for change including from Aboriginal young people and families directly impacted by these systems.
‘This Commission has been a landmark opportunity to expose the brutal and inhumane treatment of children in youth detention centres in the Northern Territory. Children have been stripped, assaulted and have been left languishing in cells in isolation for extended periods of time. This is no way to treat children. We need to do things vastly differently so that these abuses do not happen again’, said John Paterson CEO AMSANT.
The Commission has made unequivocal findings that the Northern Territory’s youth justice and care and protection systems continue to fail young people and that wholesale reform is required.
‘APO NT is encouraged to see the Commission has emphasised the importance of youth diversion, prevention and early intervention initiatives, and the need for a single Act covering youth justice and child protection’, said Mr Paterson .
The report recognises the critical involvement of Aboriginal organisations and communities in reforming all aspects of the system to bring about real change for Aboriginal people across the Territory. As a first step, Government must immediately establish a process with Aboriginal organisations and community leaders to ensure Aboriginal people are actively involved in the change that lies ahead.
The Royal Commission represents a significant step in addressing the crisis facing our child protection and youth justice systems. ‘The work doesn’t stop here. We’ve got to keep the spotlight on these issues so the abuses our kids have faced in detention and in the child protection system don’t happen again. Now is the time for the Commonwealth and Northern Territory Governments to accept all the Commission’s recommendations and commit to adequate resourcing of and independent oversight and monitoring of all recommendations of the Royal Commission’, Mr Paterson said.
APO NT pays tribute to the courageous Aboriginal young people and families who came forward to tell their story to the Commission. It is through their crucial involvement that the Commission has been able to expose the systemic failings and abuses and provide a roadmap for a better future for all children in the Territory.
‘Engagement with Aboriginal organisations and communities has to be front and centre of the reform agenda. We know the extent of change required is going to take time. Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory are ready to work with government to implement the Commission’s recommendations. We want to see commitment from both levels of government so we know we are in this together for the long haul.’
The Northern Territory has the opportunity to lead the way in reforming care and protection and youth justice in Australia. We must build on the momentum for change and work together towards a future where all children have the opportunity to thrive as part of strong and loving families and communities.
Part 3 : Time to commit to action after NT Royal Commission
Today, Congress welcomes the release of the final report from Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
“We commend the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission, particularly where it is apparent that the experiences of those young people and their families were taken into account along with the submissions from key Aboriginal community controlled organisations and expert evidence from all over the world about what really works” Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Officer, Donna Ah Chee said.
“We know that many young people who appear before the courts come from traumatised backgrounds, which in many cases has caused their offending. As a community we need to learn to ask “what’s happened to you?” rather than “what’s wrong with you?”
“We also know that the ‘get tough’ rhetoric in relation to youth offending does not work and that a preventative and therapeutic approach is what is required. This point was articulated by Commissioner White today drawing on evidence from all over the world. Commissioner White also made clear that a paradigm shift to a treatment and rehabilitation approach rather than a “lock them up” punitive approach could save the NT more than $300 million per year in ten years.
Congress welcomes Commissioner Gooda’s impassioned plea for change, acknowledging that throughout the Territory he heard that Aboriginal parents everywhere are ready for change and there is an acceptance that there is a need to do better.
Congress was pleased to see the major recommendations in our submission accepted including the need to increase the minimum age for criminality from 10 to 12, and the need to establish small scale secure care rehabilitation facilities for young people in need whilst also ensuring our young people are diverted away from the criminal justice system.
“The journey to this point has been a long one for those affected, beginning not just with the events that precipitated the Royal Commission. This report is the product of every similar enquiry, and every action – and inaction – that has taken place before this in our history.
“Recently, the NT Government has shown their commitment to tackling many of the issues that affect young people today including early childhood and alcohol.
“Congress looks forward to working with the Northern Territory and Commonwealth governments and other leading Aboriginal organisations, including AMSANT and APONT to ensure that the recommendations detailed in this report do not just sit on the shelf, but are implemented in a timely manner with Aboriginal communities and organisations at the forefront of decision making and delivery.
Part 4 :The Northern Territory Government must work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations in true partnership on Royal Commission recommendations
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) calls on the Northern Territory and Australian Governments to work with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of recommendations of the Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released today.
It is clear from the report that the current system of detention in the Northern Territory is failing our children and young people, leaving many more damaged than when they entered. The system of detention is punitive, harsh, and not in keeping with modern rehabilitative standards. We also know that the child protection system in the Northern Territory is letting down children and their families and is inextricably linked to youth justice issues.
Aboriginal children and young people living in the Northern Territory are overwhelmingly impacted with ninety four per cent of children and young people in detention being Aboriginal.
“The extent of this over-representation of Aboriginal children and young people compared with all other children and young people compels a special Aboriginal led response.” said NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Ms Pat Turner.
“The Northern Territory Government must now sit down with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to work in true partnership on the implementation of the recommendations.”
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) have the greatest coverage across the Territory and work with Aboriginal children, young people and families everyday on child protection and youth justice system prevention and early intervention support.”
Ms Turner called on the Northern Territory Government to show national leadership in responding to the recommendations, “The Northern Territory Government has a unique opportunity to lead the rest of the nation in developing a children and family centered public health approach to youth justice and child protection, responsive to Aboriginal people needs.”
NACCHO acknowledges the young people and their families who shared their stories of trauma and survival and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations that supported them.
“I particularly want to acknowledge the work of Danilla Dilba, led by Ms Olga Haven, in providing evidence based submissions to the Northern Territory Government and the Royal Commission to inform their considerations,” said Ms Turner.
“Danilla Dilba has also provided immense support to families and young people to share their own stories and experiences throughout this time, as well as ongoing health and wellbeing services to Aboriginal people across the top end.”
It is now time for the Northern Territory Government to take full responsibility and lead a change by working with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations on the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations.
Part 5 Other REACTIONS TO THE NORTHERN TERRITORY YOUTH JUSTICE REPORT:
“I think to be honest these recommendations should be not only for the Northern Territory, but for all states across Australia.” – Former Don Dale detainee Dylan Voller.
“We really welcome this report because it’s really taken into account the things we have been lobbying for many, many years now and it’s always fallen on deaf ears.” – North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency CEO Priscilla Atkins.
“This royal commission very much began there and it needs to end there.” – NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner.
“Early intervention, diversion and rehabilitation must be front and centre of Australia’s justice system to protect the lives of our children.” – National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
“The children who suffered in Don Dale and all Australian children need a guarantee that our governments will do everything they possibly can to stop this happening again.” – Human Rights Law Centre lawyer Shaleena Musk.
“This is clearly a backwards approach – there must be more funding for the beginning of the cycle, with an emphasis on early intervention, prevention, rehabilitation and community-led diversion programs.” – Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod.
“The Northern Territory and federal government must listen and work with local communities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to take these important findings and recommendations by the Royal Commission forward.” – Amnesty International’s Roxanne Moore.
“We need to heed the recommendations of the Royal Commission, not only to prevent another Don Dale-type scandal but to stop more crimes from being committed, because we all deserve to be safe.” – Red Cross executive director Andy Kenyon.
“We will take the time to scrutinise this report in detail.” – Ben Slade from Maurice Blackburn lawyers.
“Jailing children does not work – it harms them and the community.” – Kathryn Kernohan from Jesuit Social Services.
” I was regularly stripsearched from the age of 11 and on one occasion was left in a cell overnight with no mattress, sheets or clothes. They turned the aircon on full blast, I was freezing all night … I was actually crying asking for a blanket.
I was left handcuffed in the back of a stifling hot van during a 1400 kilometre prison transfer from Alice Springs to Darwin. On the trip, I was denied bathroom stops “
Dylan Voller now aged 19 giving evidence at the NT Royal Commission into Youth Detention about his 8 years in out of detention centres . See full evidence article 2 below
APO NT has for many years raised with the government the shocking treatment of youth in detention and the long term effects it has on youth
Today Dylan Voller gave evidence at the Royal Commission hearing and broke his silence about his treatment by authorities in Northern Territory youthdetention centres.
Finally youth feel confident to tell their stories to Australia knowing they have strong support behind them.
Today’s evidence is moving, this is Dylan’s personal story which shows how troubled his life was and how fragile he is. We congratulate Dylan for having the courage to tell his story as it is good for the public to understand how difficult life is for many youth who have been in and are currently in youth detention”
What we witnessed today is a story of how the juvenile justice system in the Northern Territory denied young people in its care the opportunity to enjoy even the most basic aspects of a normal life.
APO NT supports the Royal Commission inquiry to uncover where the systems have failed and make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices in the Northern Territory to provide a safer future for our children. ”
John Paterson CEO AMSANT (NACCHO Affiliate ) and Spokesperson for APO NT
The Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory—APO NT—is an alliance comprising the Central Land Council (CLC), Northern Land Council (NLC), North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Aid Service (CAALAS) and the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT (AMSANT).
The alliance was created to provide a more effective response to key issues of joint interest and concern affecting Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory, including providing practical policy solutions to government.
Support Services thru NACCHO Members and Relationship Australia
Discussing experiences of the child protection system or time spent in youth detention can be difficult. This is especially so for people who experienced abuse and are telling their story for the first time.
Mr Voller’s treatment at Darwin’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre sparked the Northern Territory child detention royal commission after footage of him shackled to a chair in a spit hood and a group of detainees being tear-gassed appeared on ABC’s Four Corners.
Mr Voller, 19, this afternoon told the commission that conditions in detention, which he first entered aged 11, were often miserable. He said detainees were regularly denied access to food, water and toilets as punishment for bad behaviour.
“There was one instance where I was in an isolation placement at Alice Springs detention centre and I was busting to go to the toilet … I had been asking for at least four or five hours,” Mr Voller said.
“They’d just been saying ‘no’.
“I ended up having to defecate into a pillow case because they wouldn’t let me out to go to the toilet.
“Eventually when I got let out the next morning, I was able to chuck that pillow case out.”
The key witness said on other occasions he was forced “to urinate out the door, out the back window, even in just normal rooms because they haven’t been able to come down”.
He said other detainees urinated out “the back window or into water bottles and chucking them out, like drink bottles and chucking them out the next day”.
Mr Voller said when guards allowed him to visit the bathroom they would only give him “five tiny little squares of toilet paper”.
“I’d go to the toilet, they’d only rip off, like, five tiny little squares of toilet paper and say: ‘That’s all you’re getting … make it last’,” Mr Voller said.
“They wouldn’t give us enough toilet paper.
“They done (sic) that quite a bit.”
According to the teen, detainees in Don Dale had to share underwear if they didn’t have enough money to buy their own. He described a prison economy where detainees could earn money through good behaviour and use it to buy items including underwear, deodorant, and CDs.
“The max you could earn was $4.50 a day and they’d take $1.50 off us every day for rent,” Mr Voller said.
“If you don’t buy your own underwear, the only other underwear you have the choice of wearing is the underwear everyone else wears.
“It gets washed, you pick out another pair, it gets washed and it goes through all of the males in Don Dale.”
The court heard Mr Voller was regularly stripsearched from the age of 11 and on one occasion was left in a cell overnight with no mattress, sheets or clothes. “They turned the aircon on full blast, I was freezing all night … I was actually crying asking for a blanket,” he said.
Mr Voller said he was left handcuffed in the back of a stifling hot van during a 1400 kilometre prison transfer from Alice Springs to Darwin. On the trip, he was denied bathroom stops and forced to defecate in his shirt.
He said the guards smoked heavily the whole way which made him vomit.
“I was vomiting, vomiting, I couldn’t get up, I was laying down in the chair and I was trying to break the chair so I could lay down flat,” he said.
Although poised throughout his testimony, Mr Voller’s eyes welled up on the stand, when senior counsel assisting Peter Callaghan SC moved his line of questioning to the topic of family.
“I had one case worker I remember that was saying my family didn’t really care about me and stuff like that,” Mr Voller said through tears.
“For a long time I started believing it, I guess.”
Mr Voller was this morning taken from the Darwin Correctional Centre to the Darwin Supreme Court to speak at the inquiry, which will also hear from Antoinette Carroll, a youth justice advocate who worked with Mr Voller for seven years.
This image from Four Corners screened on ABC shows Dylan Voller in the spit hood.Source:ABC
The Royal Commission comes after footage screened in July showed Mr Voller and five other youths being tear-gassed and spit hooded at the Don Dale centre. Vision of Mr Voller strapped to a chair wearing a hood while in the notorious detention centre shocked many when they were screened by ABC’s Four Corners.
The court was closed but Mr Voller’s evidence was streamed online after the NT government lost a bid to delay further witnesses. He will not be cross-examined despite making allegations against 31 guards.
Other youths from Don Dale are expected to also give evidence.
According to his lawyer Peter O’Brien, Mr Voller has been eager to voice his version of events since the inquiry was announced on July 28.
Mr Voller was jailed at Holtze prison, Darwin in 2014 for a violent drug-fuelled binge.
“I’m definitely not proud of it, and it’s just humiliating and a lot of mistakes,” he said.
Both Mr O’Brien and Mr Voller’s mother, Joanne, said Mr Voller was concerned about giving evidence while still in custody and feared repercussions from prison guards.
“I have never seen my son so scared in all of his life,” Ms Voller said after visiting her son on Tuesday.
Mr Voller’s family has repeatedly called for his release from prison so he can speak freely before the commission.
He has also previously requested a transfer to Alice Springs prison.
But his mother said prison guards in Darwin have told him that going to Alice Springs would “increase his chances of getting bashed” because of its lack of CCTV cameras.
Mr Voller today told the court he finished school at age 10 and spent the following seven years in and out of care and youth detention.
He said it was during his first year in care he was first introduced to smoking marijuana and encouraged to commit crimes by older boys.
He described small, institutional rooms with painted-over windows.
“It was disgusting: cockroaches, dust, you felt trapped, you couldn’t really talk to anyone else,” Mr Voller said.
“The only bit of the outside world you got was when you were driving to court or yelling out at the top of your lungs to young people next door at the school.”