Silhouette of Indigenous children sitting on a fence

NT restraint chair ban a step for children’s rights

The Northern Territory Government should be commended for its move to better protect the human rights of children detained in the Territory.

Brutal restraint chairs will no longer be able to be used against children in the NT, under the Youth Justice Legislation Amendment Bill 2016 introduced into NT Parliament yesterday.

The Bill specifies that the only ‘approved restraints’ under the Youth Justice Act are handcuffs, ankle cuffs and waist-restraining belts. The Commissioner of Correctional Services must consent to the use of the approved restraints.

New Regulations will provide that restraints are to be used as a last resort, once other methods of de-escalating behaviour have been exhausted.

Consultation

The NT Government also announced it will develop a new Youth Justice Act, based on the findings of the NT Royal Commission and extensive consultation.

“All around the NT – in fact all around the world – people were horrified by the Guantanamo-Bay-like images of Dylan Voller shackled to a restraint chair,” said Julian Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

“We commend the NT Government for never again allowing the use of this chair against children.

“We also look forward to the new NT government consulting with Aboriginal organisations about a contemporary Youth Justice Act. We hope to see a new approach of supporting Indigenous led-programs that help children thrive in their communities, rather than setting them up to fail in the quicksand of the justice system.”

Federal approach needed from PM Turnbull

Amnesty International calls on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to take note of these efforts to protect children in detention, and to adopt an approach that protects children from abuse and harm nationally.

A further concrete step Mr Turnbull could make is ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture. This would provide for independent inspections of prisons all over Australia, ensuring an end to the secrecy of abuses against children and adults in detention.

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NT restraint chair ban a step for children’s rights