LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – I cannot recall a time when I have felt more disgust more disillusionment with the processors of Government than after viewing the Four Corners Program on youth justice in the Territory. In my role as candidate for the Country Liberals on the outside of Government I would like to share my thoughts.
Clearly this is a systemic issue as it runs across at least two governments of both political persuasions. Several incidents highlighted on the program dating back to the previous Labor Government.
Neither should we unfairly apportion blame to corrections staff who are dealing with very difficult youths in very difficult circumstances. In my view this is more about a deeply ingrained systemic attitude towards punishment that clearly has its roots buried somewhere in the dark ages of medieval history.
On display are both facilities and attitudes towards corrections that don’t belong in the 21st century. We don’t tolerate animals being kept under the conditions we saw portrayed.
Now that youth justice in the Territory is about to be bared to the world through the auspices of a very welcome Royal Commission we have a huge opportunity to bring both our attitudes and our facilities into the 21st century!
This should see a corrections and the entire criminal system of justice focus its effort on rehabilitation as opposed punishment.
This should include the construction of places of detention that house detainees under civilised conditions as opposed to the stinking chambers of torture we saw in the vision. Never again should any child be held under such condition – starting from today.
And no, this definitely does not mean we should soften in anyway our strong law and order policy, our intolerance to vile and often brutal behaviour by these children in our community.
Our very first obligation is to protect our community from these behaviour. Do not confuse intolerance of law breaking with a medieval attitude in corrections – they are separate issues. Without strong law enforcement we force people to protect themselves with violence.
I have had and for that matter continue to have a lengthy involvement in the issues relating to troubled youth in our community. I am completely repelled sickened disgusted by what I saw on the program.
We’ve been at work in the community trying to find compassionate but firm ways to give kids a chance in life, to build their confidence and trust, to try and make them feel wanted and included in our community.
While we’ve been working to that end it seems others have been doing their utmost at the other end to smash lives, destroying all opportunity for these kids.
Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that many of these kids have horrific criminal records, but does anyone really think you can change a child’s life by treating them like animals?
Does punishment seeking revenge or payback, as seems to be part of this vile mentality, achieve any useful outcome for our community?
Does it rehabilitate in anyway? Or does it simply result in the creation of isolated angry young people hell bent on lashing out at the wider community, making our efforts completely self-defeating in creating an even deeper systemic issue of cyclical criminal behaviour?
It’s not something that I usually talk about, but I am the brother-in-law of Brendan Abbott, better known as the Post Card Bandit who has been incarcerated in solitary confinement for half his 25-year term, subjected to continual strip searches and bashings, enduring the longest stretch in solitary ever served by an Australian prisoner.
Brendan is a product of the youth justice system, and while family and friends were able to accept the need to serve his time for crimes committed, the vile medieval need to inflict further pain to extend the misery that is apparently rife within corrections right across our nation.
I breaks our hearts and builds our anger, the brutal injustice, the complete lack of intention to rehabilitate the barbaric desire to punish above all else is part of what drives my involvement in the politics of the Territory.
I am trying to bring about change to create a corrections system which has as its primary goal rehabilitation!
A system that has the word JUSTICE stamped firmly at the centre of its intentions. Justice does not mean payback. Justice is an empathetic balance of punishment and rehabilitation that always seeks to calm the waters and move on. Vengeance has no place in it. For the first time I saw footage of the inside of the Don Dale Centr …. really!
In the 21st century we keep children in such a place? I am reviled!
I believe an appropriate and immediate response should be to flatten this Centre!
Bulldoze it from existence and set about designing a corrections system that I have spoken of. I believe Youth Camp presently being operated by Bush Mob on Loves Creek to be a very good example of where we should be heading.
While we are having a Royal Commission and reconstructing our system of youth justice, let’s start moving forward by placing those who have to be incarcerated into Bush Mob’s care, if they’ll take them, or somewhere similar if they can’t. Then let’s force change by bulldozing Don Dale. I never want to see a centre like it in operation again!
In the meantime, let’s not miss the opportunity the Royal Commission will provide to create real change. Let’s not allow its agenda to be hijacked by peripheral issues. The Royal Commission must review a child’s journey through the youth justice system in its entirety from its tragic beginning to its final outcome doing so for all children of all races. It must not be allowed to become an issue of race. Now and into the Territory’s future all children are of equal importance.
History tells us that being separated from the mob inevitably means justification for lesser treatment.
Time for change!
CLP candidate for Araluen
Bulldoze vile, medieval Don Dale centre: CLP candidate
LETTER TO THE EDITOR