Abuse highlighted in NT Royal Commission demands a national response

MEDIA RELEASE - 12 November 2017


12 November 2017

The Federal Government must seize the opportunity presented by the forthcoming release of the report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory to take national action on youth justice issues through the development of a National Youth Justice Action Plan, according to the Change the Record Coalition.

“Last year the revelations of abuses in Don Dale shocked a nation and led to Federal Government announcing a Royal Commission in the Northern Territory,” said Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of the Change the Record Coalition. “However, the abuse of children in prisons is not confined to the Northern Territory. Since the Royal Commission was announced, there have been countless reports and investigations into mistreatment and torture of children in prisons in almost every jurisdiction”, said Ms Axleby.

“This is a national crisis that demands a national response,” said Antoinette Braybrook, Co-Chair of the Change the Record Coalition. “The system needs to be completely overhauled. There needs to be a co‑ordinated plan for action across the country, so that every State and Territory government is held accountable for making sure we are improving children’s lives, rather than destroying them,” said Ms Braybrook.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up less than 6 per cent of children aged 10-17 years, but they make up 54 per cent of children in prison in Australia.

“With the release of the Royal Commission’s report this week, the Federal Government has an historic opportunity to show national leadership to address this crisis and demonstrate that the safety of all children is a national priority,” said Ms Axleby. “The revelations of abuse and mistreatment of children in prisons across Australia demands national action, involving COAG and our communities, to make a difference to the lives and future opportunities of all of our children.”

“This is an historic opportunity to turn things around for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” said Ms Braybrook. “The punitive approach to youth justice is failing. We need the Federal Government to lead action on a new way forward.”

“International human rights bodies have put Australia on notice to improve. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Ms Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, found ‘the routine detention of young indigenous children the most distressing aspect of [her] visit’ when she visited Australia in March 2017,” said Ms Axleby. “It is time the Federal Government took action.”

For media comment from Cheryl Axleby or Antoinette Braybrook contact Rashmi Kumar, Principal Advisor, at 0409 711 061 or rashmi@changetherecord.org.au.