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Human rights groups condemn police violence against 11-year-old in the NT

Dechlan Brennan -

Distressing footage of an Indigenous child being forcibly removed from a home and put into the back of a police van has led to Indigenous human rights advocates to call for an immediate investigation.

The video footage - first obtained by The Australian - showed armed NT police wrestling an 11-year-old foster child - known as Benny (not his real name) from a home and into the cage of a police vehicle.

"No thank you…You have no right to touch me," the video reveals Benny saying.

Palawa man and Amnesty International Indigenous Rights Advisor, Rodney Dillon, condemned the forceful removal of the child by police.

"Fifteen years after the Australian government formally apologised to the Stolen Generations, police are still violently removing children from their families, placing them in cages while they scream for help, at the direction of Australian governments," he said.

"Forced removal of Aboriginal children by police and government is not Australian history, it is Australia's present."

Minister for Territory Families, Kate Worden, said that all children in the Territory deserve to grow up in safe and happy homes.

"This is why we take child protection very seriously," she said.

The Minister, who also holds the police portfolio, said the welfare of children is "paramount in our decision making and these matters are treated very seriously."

"Police use their best judgment and knowledge to make decisions at the time. This is an ongoing case and I know that Police and Territory Families will continue to work together in the best interests of the children involved."

Mr Dillon, who is a former member of the Stolen Generations Alliance and has campaigned for an end to children being transported in caged wagons, said both minister Warden and Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy, as well as the police and public servants who oversaw the removal "must be held accountable."

"[They] must front up to the community," he said.

"To explain why armed police are wrestling vulnerable children into police cages as public servants watch on, outline what support has been offered to the child in the wake of this extremely traumatising experience for him, and to assure Aboriginal families across the Northern Territory what steps are being taken so that their children aren't in danger of something like this happening again."

Elders in the Territory have reported that police have previously transported children in caged utes.

Amnesty has campaigned to have the practice outlawed, saying it is against international standards.

"Police cages are a ute with a cage on the back and a blue tarpaulin covering it. No seat belts. No lighting. No heating or air conditioning," they said.

"Amnesty campaigners have consistently fielded reports from Northern Territory community members of their children being locked up and driven around in police cages for more than five hours. They are thrown around in the cage. They suffer in the heat.

"Transporting people in motor vehicles without seatbelts is against Australian law. But when we raised it with the government, they said they weren't worried about it."

Nearly 100 per cent of all children incarcerated in the NT are Indigenous. The Territory recently raised the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12, but this falls short of the demands from Indigenous and human rights groups, who have campaigned for it to be raised to 14 immediately.

Police in the Northern Territory have come under fire in recent years for their treatment of Indigenous children and prisoners.

In 2020 footage emerged of a police officer threatening to "belt" Aboriginal teenagers and telling them: "I am in the mood to fucking lose my job tonight. I don't mind losing it over belting the f**k out of one of you little c**ts. Do you understand me? Good. When you're given an instruction, you follow it and that's it."

Then police commissioner, Jamie Chalker, refused to condemn the officers, saying he wasn't going to "throw anyone under the bus."

Earlier this year, the national children's commissioner wrote to the Northern Territory's police minister asking for an NT Police promotional video - featuring officers chasing and arresting two Aboriginal teenagers - to be taken down.

Many of the comments of the video were racist and encouraged hatred and violence.

Mr Dillon asked: "How many more Aboriginal children will be brutalised by police and torn from their families by the state into the future?

"This violence must end."

The Office of the Children's Commissioner released a statement cautioning against the sharing of the footage.

"The OCC cautions subsequent sharing of the footage, even if out of concern for the child, as it is unclear if the child has consented to this video being published and may cause additional distress and detrimental harm to the child as well as to other vulnerable members of the community," the statement said.

"Formal complaints have been received and the Acting Children's Commissioner for the Northern Territory, Mrs Nicole Hucks, is being actively briefed by Territory Families, Housing and Communities regarding this incident.

"The immediate focus of the Acting Children's Commissioner is on the current and ongoing safety and wellbeing of the child involved."

Since the story was published in The Australian on Tuesday, the National Indigenous Times has been made aware that Benny did not give his consent for his story to be reported on.

As such, no discussion around the circumstances and reasons for his interaction with police, along with his background have been mentioned here, out of respect for Benny.

Gunggari campaigner and national director of Change the Record, Maggie Munn, had initially provided comments on the record to the National Indigenous Times. However, they asked that they no longer be included, out of respect for the child and their wishes not be reported on.

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