Graphic footage aired on the ABC’s Four Corners Program has exposed the brutal mistreatment of young boys in the Juvenile Justice System between 2010 and 2015. The Four Corners footage showed detainees as young as thirteen being repeatedly stripped naked, thrown against walls, kneed and knocked to the ground. Furthermore, detainees were placed in solitary confinement for excessive periods of time and sprayed with tear gas in confined spaces.
Following the extensive media coverage and public outcry against these revelations, the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Adam Giles removed and replaced the Northern Territory’s Minister for Corrections John Elferink. Furthermore, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a Royal Commission into Darwin’s Don Dale Detention Centre. Although Justice Action believes the Commission will be a positive presence in highlighting the terrible injustice done to young people, we do not believe that it goes far enough. Justice Action would like to see the Royal Commission extended beyond the Northern Territory. The crisis facing young people in juvenile detention is a national issue for both young people and adults.
The treatment of young boys in Darwin’s Don Dale Detention centre amounts to torture and constitutes a breach of Australia’s international obligations under [OPCAT]. In 2009, Justice Action produced a report to the Australian Human Rights Commission. If these recommendations had been adopted in 2009 these terrible conditions may have been rectified sooner.
Justice Action condemns the atrocities perpetuated towards young people within the criminal justice system. These are places where young people need the most support. Unfortunately, the history of the penal colony is littered with the continuation of such incidents, and will inevitably continue without the crucial intervention of our elected representatives, legal officers, non-government organisations and advocates, and the general public. It is up to society to keep our representatives accountable for such tragic oversights, and force them to intervene rather than ignore these travesties.
As a result of these recent events, Justice Action acknowledges that the following changes should be enacted promptly:
1. Expansion of the Royal Commission to include investigation of all places of detention in all states and territories.
2. Adoption of the recommendations made by Justice Action’s international Consultation regarding the OPCAT treaty.
3. Implementation of an NPM (National Preventative Mechanism) ensuring regular inspection of all places of detention, including juvenile detention centres in Australia.