In response to an incident at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin overnight, Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Adviser, Rodney Dillon, said:
“There have been reports for months that the conditions at Don Dale are no better than they were before the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory made its damning findings.
“A case against the government regarding treatment of young people is before the court, allegations have been aired of girls being filmed whilst showering, and now this incident shows that Don Dale is at crisis point.
“Both Alice Springs and Don Dale Detention Centres are at capacity. Don Dale is an old prison that wasn’t considered acceptable for adults, and is clearly not acceptable for children. There are issues around the training and numbers of staff. Lock-down is being used more frequently, and there are concerns about the ongoing use of isolation units.
“We keep getting told that things are improving at Don Dale – we are either being lied to, or authorities don’t actually understand what is going on there.
2021 too long to wait
“The government is saying that the doors of a new Don Dale will be opened in 2021, but that’s far too long for these children to wait. The NT Government needs to act now to address the underlying issues that lead to children being locked up.
“Indigenous leaders in the NT already have the solutions. These incidents will keep happening unless the Government begins working in partnership with Indigenous communities, and funding Indigenous-led programs that support children to thrive in their communities, so they don’t end up in detention in the first place.”
Raise the minimum age to 14 that kids can be locked up
“We know that kids locked up before the age of 14 are three times more likely to reoffend. The Government must urgently raise the minimum age that kids can be locked up to 14. Those 10-13 year olds currently in prison must also be placed in intervention programs that address the underlying issues which lead to offending behaviours.
“Nearly 80% of kids in NT prisons haven’t even been sentenced yet. We have to get kids on remand out of prison and into bail accommodation that keeps them out of the criminalising environment of prison.
“Government needs to focus on these reforms as soon as possible.”