All children in detention in the Northern Territory are Indigenous

Policy for dealing with youth crime among Aboriginal children labelled ‘inhumane, costly and does not work’

All children now in detention in the Northern Territory are Aboriginal, according to data from the families department, prompting calls for reform of the justice system.

In response to questioning at an NT estimates hearing late last week, the department confirmed that “as of today, 100% of the children in detention are Aboriginal. The proportions have not changed since the royal commission.”

“There are 17 young people in Don Dale Youth detention centre and 21 in Alice Springs. Four of those in Don Dale are from the centre, two from Alice Springs and two from Tennant Creek,” the deputy chief executive of operations for the department, Jeanette Kerr, told the committee. “In terms of Indigenous children, they are all Indigenous.”

There are now 38 young people in detention in the NT. Between 35% and 37% are from Darwin and Alice Springs, 9% are from Tennant Creek and the rest are from across the territory.

In response to the recommendations of the Don Dale royal commission, the NT government says it has allocated $71.4m to rebuild Don Dale and Alice Springs youth detention centres, but only $9.9m over four years “to divert young people from crime and stop future offending”.

Under its “Safe, thriving and connected: generational change for children and families” plan, the NT government also set aside $22.9m over four years to “improve youth detention operations and reduce recidivism”.

In a statement read to the committee, the member for Nhulunbuy, Yingiya Mark Guyula, said: “The royal commission provided evidence that the ways that the Balanda [white] system treats Aboriginal children is inhumane, costly and does not work.”

“In my electorate of Nhulunbuy, we want to see our elders in control of raypirri – or discipline – for our young people. We want troubled young people out on homelands with oversight from elders, and access to education from our people and through the school system.

“The problem is, this requires a genuine partnership between government and Yolngu leaders, with funding to assist our young people.”

NT’s families minister, Dale Wakefield, told the committee: “It is an area that we are going to need to continue to develop.

“I think it is probably going to look different from place to place. Whilst the member for Nhulunbuy has a very strong vision for what happens on Yolngu land, I think that will look very different on Warlpiri land.

“We need to make sure ... that local communities can make decisions around the ways they want to respond to young people who are not meeting community expectations in terms of their behaviour.”


Lorena Allam

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Northern Territory moves to raise age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12
Government says authorities will refer children under 12 and their families to parenting and behavioural change programs to break the cycle of offending

Sarah Collard

13, Oct, 2022 @5:15 AM

Article image
Northern Territory repeals alcohol laws ‘discriminatory’ to Indigenous people
Scrapped orders introduced by the former CLP government were criticised over the number of Indigenous people subjected to them

Helen Davidson in Darwin

18, Aug, 2017 @7:02 AM

Article image
Northern Territory youth detention: no excuse for not knowing of abuse
Footage screened on Four Corners was shocking but what occurred has been in the public domain since not long after it happened

Helen Davidson

26, Jul, 2016 @4:04 AM

Article image
Former chief justice named as head of Northern Territory juvenile detention inquiry
Commission to report by 31 March on treatment of children in the youth detention system and whether its oversight was adequate

Gareth Hutchens , Paul Karp and Helen Davidson

28, Jul, 2016 @7:41 AM

Article image
Northern Territory juvenile detention 'may amount to torture', says Unicef – as it happened
Chief minister takes over portfolio and PM announces royal commission after ABC airs footage of teenagers being teargassed, hooded and restrained for hours

Calla Wahlquist (earlier) and Elle Hunt (later)

26, Jul, 2016 @7:18 AM

Article image
Indigenous groups welcome Northern Territory raising criminal age but say 12 still too young
NT first jurisdiction in Australia to lift age while Aboriginal advocates and human rights experts continue push for at least 14

Sarah Collard

30, Nov, 2022 @4:07 AM

Article image
Appoint Indigenous commissioners to NT juvenile detention inquiry, says Shorten
Labor leader says: ‘This royal commission has to be done with Aboriginal people, not to Aboriginal people’

Paul Farrell

30, Jul, 2016 @3:12 AM

Article image
Northern Territory reveals 20% rise in reports of child abuse
Authorities received 20,465 reports of neglect or physical abuse involving 10,851 children in 2015-16

Helen Davidson in Darwin

24, Nov, 2016 @2:02 AM

Article image
'You're not alone': how a bush camp gave Indigenous teenagers a sense of pride
Balunu founder David Cole says having Aboriginal mentors was ‘critical’ to the program’s success – before it was defunded

Helen Davidson

22, Feb, 2017 @9:12 PM

Article image
'Abu Ghraib'-style images of children in detention in Australia trigger public inquiry
Australian prime minister says he is ‘deeply shocked and appalled’ by footage of teenager being hooded in a restraint chair and other apparent abuses

Helen Davidson in Darwin, Paul Karp in Canberra and Elle Hunt in Sydney

26, Jul, 2016 @8:31 AM