Youth detention injustices should ‘never be repeated’

Opinion 2Four Corners recently exposed the terrible evidence of brutality in youth detention in the Northern Territory. Congratulations must go to Caro Meldrum – Hanna and her team for, again, providing excellent investigative journalism in this flagship program.

The Prime Minister reacted quickly announcing a Royal Commission, as the immediate reaction to scenes of physical and mental abuse of young people united organisations, politicians and communities across the country.

Many questions will be put to the Commission, including the level of consultation on the decision and the development of terms of reference which are limited to the Territory.

Senator Pat Dodson’s recent interview on the ABC called for a cross party response and Commissioner Mick Gooda reinforced the need for engagement with aboriginal people and clarified the Attorney General’s statement that he had been consulted. While Minister Scullion stated that the situation at the youth detention centre, which had been the topic of an extensive territory enquiry, had not ‘piqued his interest’ until this week.

Territory Chief Minister, Adam Giles, must regret the access to Hansard which recorded his statement when he was Minister for Corrective Services that ‘I would build a big concrete hole and put all the bad criminals in there’. His ‘law and order’ rhetoric has changed little since then.

The terrible truth is that the NT government knew about the situation at the detention centre as there had been previous investigations that included the shocking footage publicly revealed on Four Corners.

They cannot say they didn’t know so there is NOW real revulsion and anger that nothing was done.

The Royal Commission will be short and focussed, as described by the PM, and we need to make sure that there will be action and that these injustices are never repeated.

Claire Moore, Senator for Queensland

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