NT Gov moving at ‘glacial pace’ on Don Dale

Law Council President Arthur Moses.

The Law Council of Australia and Law Society NT have condemned the Northern Territory Government’s inaction on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre after reports of another incident at the facility.

A Territory Families spokesperson said the incident began on April 19th when inmates “displayed aggressive behaviour during the evening routine.”

Seven detainees triggered a fire alarm and broke onto the roof.

“Police were asked to manage the incident due to the increased safety risk,” the spokesperson said.

The teenagers were then brought back into the centre and two youth justice officers were taken to hospital for medical assessments.

This incident adds to a growing list of events occurring at Don Dale since before 2017’s Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory recommended the former adult prison be shut down.

Law Council President Arthur Moses SC said Don Dale is simply unfit for the detention of children.

“It is a former adult prison that was not deemed suitable for adult detainees, yet we have placed the most vulnerable members of our community – our children – in the facility,” Mr Moses said.

Law Society NT President Maria Savvas agreed with Mr Moses, saying the situation cannot be allowed to continue.

“The NT Government’s longstanding failure to replace Don Dale with a purpose-built facility for children is a matter of serious concern,” Ms Savvas said.

Both the Law Council and Law Society called for the NT Government to act on their promise to close Don Dale and create a new facility for its youth detainees.

“The NT Government has moved at a glacial pace on this critical issue,” Ms Savvas said.

“Reports of a further disturbance at the facility over the [Easter] long weekend underscore the urgent need for the NT Government to act swiftly to remove children from this facility.”

Mr Moses said although the NT Government has known for over a year that Don Dale is unsuitable for juvenile detention, it has failed to remove the children from the centre.

“Children are paying the price for the Government’s lack of swift action. We cannot look the other way as a community and allow this to continue,” Mr Moses said.

The Territory Families’ spokesperson said $70 million is being invested into the Darwin and Alice Springs youth detention centres and a number of site options are currently being considered by the NT Government.

“The new Darwin Centre will be purposefully designed to ensure community safety through robust security design, while doing everything possible to support programs to reduce re-offending of young people,” the spokesperson said.

“The community will be kept informed throughout the process.”

While the NT Government said it is committed to supporting young people in the NT, the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre remains open.

By Hannah Cross

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