Bulldoze vile, medieval Don Dale centre: CLP candidate


p2064-Steve-Brown-130LETTER 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!
Steve Brown
CLP candidate for Araluen


  1. Steve, you have just gone and destroyed the CLP’s last chance of appealing to rednecks and revenge seeking cowboys.
    Who is left to vote for the CLP now?
    Certainly not the business community. They are fed up with the dodgy procurement practices, looking after “mates” and discriminatory tendering policies (this, you have gone awfully quite on.)
    Dare I say, the only chance that the CLP will even exist come September, is if Giles is dis-endorsed now, the party admits he was a big mistake that should have been dealt with earlier and to stand people of integrity, consistency and critical thinking.
    Of course the CLP will still not win, but it is better to start the renewal under your own steam than at the wrath of the electorate.

  2. Unfortunately Steve, I can only see your letter as crocodile tears. The fact that you are still running as a CLP candidate only confirms this.
    Yes, the processes of government in the Territory these days are broken, terminally so. Yes, Labor must carry some of the blame for that but the rot effectively started under the old CLP.
    Those same people are the ones who came out of the woodwork again as soon as your mob got in, with cushy jobs as advisors.
    I didn’t hear you condemning Minister Elferink last year when he personally supervised sending police with dogs after the kids who were running amok after the Lightning Carnival.
    Send in the dogs. A very worthy CLP answer to complex issues involving juveniles.
    You have been championing the Boot Camp model, which is about the most stupid way of wasting money I know. You told council it has been highly successful. Prove it.
    Nothing I read in your letter would convince me to vote any way other than independent but I do have a vested interest there.
    Let’s have a look at CLP responses this week. Emperor Nigel couldn’t be bothered watching it; Adam, you and Chandler are desperate to blame Labor; most of your apologists are playing the same, tired CLP record of blaming the media and the unions; Adam has come out with the usual unfunded kneejerk about building prison farms, a new jail and throwing them in the detention centre; Elferink goes to ground after trying to claim he is the real victim in all of this; Adam claimed the royal commission is his idea.
    Steve, let’s not wait for the royal commission as a chance to make real change. Territorians can do that on August 27 by making sure they don’t vote CLP or ALP.
    There are some genuinely good people running as independents right across the Territory. There are some who can be kindly described as slightly loopy but I think even they would be an improvement on what we have been served up by your party and the other mob.
    If you genuinely believe the rot within NTG sits with Corrections alone, you are as delusional as the Attorney-General.
    I have a genuine belief that the leaking of the tapes to the ABC came from within the CLP itself, in some hair-brained attempt to prove they are the nastiest people on earth with regard to criminals.
    You have had many years as a delegate to change that culture within the party.
    You can’t be genuine in your desire to build a better, more inclusive Territory and a CLP candidate at the same time.
    Many of us embraced the traditional values of the CLP; they disappeared several years ago and you must wear some of the responsibility for that.
    If you genuinely believe you have the people of Araluen and the youth of the Territory at heart, turn your back on the vile, wretched organisation you helped to create and run as an independent.
    In the meantime, at least do the honourable thing and resign from council. Using it as your forum to run for Araluen is cheap and tawdry.

  3. Re: Peter Posted July 28, 2016 at 1:11 pm
    Re: Observer Posted July 28, 2016 at 7:47 am
    Your posts appear so busy campaigning for elections, ignoring discussion of the significant changes needed.
    Diversion of public discussion to blame is pointless, all legislators share the guilt, for such has been ongoing.
    The Royal Commission into the Child Protection and Youth Detention Systems of the Government of the Northern Territory, under Royal Commissioner Justice the Hon Brian Ross Martin AO QC will report on what actually happened, why, with recommendations.
    Justice Angel when in the NT Supreme Court achieved significant changes in mental health treatment, the legislators failed to keep up to make the changes more effective.
    Public and Political discussion needs be wider about how to avoid repeating these wrongs.
    Re-Read the article suggested by Evelyne Roullet Posted July 27, at 8:07 am. (Kieran Finnane’s article: “Dylan Voller’s mistreatment started in Alice Springs”)
    Progress for the NT needs bring those running Norway corrective prison system here to review and recommend changes required to adopt their successful approach for NT, indeed perhaps for Australia.
    To obtain comprehensive effective recommendations the Royal Commission lead by Justice Angel perhaps needs travel to inspect the Norway system.
    The illness of party politics remains part of the problem, interfering – corrupting, the capability of legislators to co-operate to provide better legislation.
    Representative government is a co-operative effort, not simple majority selection of dictators.

  4. Wonderful Peter … If that is indeed your name another from behind the hedge. What have you yourself ever contributed to the betterment of our community, Peter?
    You say the Country Liberals are missing strong people. Like yourself I presume? The ones who fade away when things get tough!
    Mmmm, my apologies but I just can’t quite see that.
    I re-joined the Country Liberals about nine months ago I did so because I absolutely believe in good strong conservative government and I know that our community is in great peril if we lose the one we’ve got!
    So your great decision Peter, your cure all for the ills of government, is to vote in a bunch of misfit independents who have absolutely no idea what they stand for, of how to run a government! Whoops, wait, your supposedly squeaky clean independent running against me was the Minister for Corrections, at one time a decision maker in this supposedly terrible Government.
    How’s that work? So that’s your answer? The same people under a different flag!
    But let’s be serious here, while there has been ups and downs with this government, as there is with any government, they have actually managed to achieve far more for the regions than any government before them!
    This town is perched on a precipice: On the top side we have a huge improvement in law and order, we have tourists on our streets again, we have several large impending free enterprise projects set to rock this town to its foundations, the biggest funded infrastructure spend in our history just about to happen.
    And then down below set to drag us over the edge there is the Labor Party! All that expertise in economy busting mayhem just waiting to put us right back where we were! Your solution is a bunch of independents, with mostly no experience or those who have, no ability to work with others!
    So, this is how it really goes, Peter, either the Country Liberals or the Labor Party will win the election! Have absolutely no doubt about it! Voting for an Independent will result in the Labor Party winning the election!
    Understand that Peter, own it! You are backing Labor!
    Oh and as for your vote … I’m sorry but you appear to be seeking misery and mayhem, so I’ll have to pass!
    You should vote Labor, they’ve got exactly the policies you’re after!

  5. I managed the Gap Centre in the early eighties and we are not talking about nice well dressed well behaved kids here. We’re talking about some of the hardest underprivileged kids in town. Many had spent time in Kempe Street. And had you met them on the street you would have avoided them by a mile.
    But when those same undisciplined, scruffy, hardnosed kids were occupied with things of interest – music, sport, just going camping out bush, they were the easiest, happiest and most loving kids I had known. Kids are kids, you kick them they want to kick you back.
    In the 1990s and 2000s I managed the juvenile diversion program for Nyangatjatjara out at Mutitjulu, Imanpa and Docker River. It was the same story: Give them something interesting to do and these kids are mild mannered children.
    So my answer to that one is give them meaningful occupation that they can enjoy, not sewing mailbags. They’re kids. Look at Norway, make it fun.
    The next point is: I’m not very political, but some things have been difficult to avoid.
    The CLP leader, the Chief Minister, said he wanted to see lawbreakers put in a hole.
    TIO was sold off against the wishes of the majority of the people. (Don’t tell me “we were voted in, we can do what we want, we have the mandate of the people” because that’s ludicrous.)
    Then the Port of Darwin was also sold off. This is not a government for the people. The CLP are out for themselves. We could do worse than a government of independents, very Socratic I would think. But I don’t believe we should suffer any more of the CLP.

  6. @ Steve: As you are apparently about to stop being a local government representative and seek higher honours, I would like to offer you some advice.
    Feel free to accept or ignore it, it is offered with good intentions to hopefully help you in your campaigning.
    Firstly, you need to rethink your strategy of abusing and insulting people as your opening to pretty much every conversation.
    Yes, it is a well-worn CLP tactic. If you want to guage its effectiveness, remember that by the 2020 election they will have been in power for just five of the past 20 years.
    You really also need to stop attacking Labor, unions, Robyn and parents for all of the Territory’s ills.
    Yes, the CLP inherited a train wreck. So did Labor in 2001, and again in 2016. By the way, Ms Lambley is in the same boat. Hearing politicians whinging about each other is a turn off at the ballot box.
    It’s about playing the ball and not the man. In 14 paragraphs of bile, you managed just one paragraph where you offered any positive reason for voting for you. That paragraph was long on rhetoric – the same tired “just you wait” stuff many people stopped listening to ages ago – and short on any actual detail.
    Yes Steve, the ALP will win the election. Part of the reason the Territory has ended up in its current state, however, is that your average voter feels disenfranchised by the process.
    I have not read the part in the constitution, nor the Sentencing Act or the Electoral Act for that matter, that people cannot run as an independent.
    Call me old fashioned but I have a belief that a robust exchange of reasoned opinion, backed by solid evidence and sound, non partisan advice is how Australia was built way back when.
    I have no doubt you have many very good ideas based on your extensive experiences. I also have no doubt many of those ideas would work well in practice.
    In our two-party preferred system, however, I also have absolutely no doubt you will be greatly disillusioned should you be lucky enough – or work hard enough – to win on August 27. You will be simply told to sit down the back and speak only when you are spoken to, using the lines that will be provided to you.
    If you doubt that in any way, I suggest you try having a civil conversation with your opponent about it. If you don’t want to talk to her – and I wouldn’t blame you – I can provide a list.
    That’s why I suggested you run as an independent. I was not joking. You impress me as a passionate person who is genuine in their desire to do some good for their community.
    That’s a great thing. Every community needs champions. I personally doubt, through bitter experience, that you can achieve anything at all through a major party these days.
    One day the CLP can hopefully be rebuilt to the wonderful institution it once was. One day the well-intentioned party faithful will start being listened to again.
    Just don’t hold your breath waiting for it.
    Yes Steve, I was a member of your branch for a time. My disillusionment with the party these days is in part that some of your heirachy has trampled all over the Westminster system but in the most part, that those same people have trampled all over the conventions of the organisation.
    There is a lack of understanding of the real reasons for separation of powers and the damage done when those conventions are dispensed with.
    One final thing – you asked what I have ever contributed to my community.
    Four years ago I started a not for profit organisation in the Barkly that focused on delivering genuine, well researched youth justice outcomes.
    As a result of the genuine, documented advances made by our team, we were finalists last year in ACOSS’s community service organisation of the year awards.
    The other finalists were White Ribbon Day, Salvation Army and Red Cross.
    The Minister removed our funding – without explanation – the day after we received the award.
    We still operate, funded by my super.

  7. CORRECTION to my error: Paul Parker Posted July 28, 2016 at 7:35 pm
    Incorrect: “Justice Angel when in the NT Supreme Court achieved significant changes in mental health treatment, the legislators failed to keep up to make the changes more effective. ”
    Correction: “Chief Justice Martin when in the NT Supreme Court achieved significant changes in mental health treatment, the legislators failed to keep up to make the changes more effective.”

  8. @ Peter: I agree with some of what you say, however you hand out very critical often bitter comments and unfounded accusations.
    If you are going to do that expect a reply in kind, if you don’t like copping it, don’t dish it out! Put your full name on your posts stand up for what you believe and I’ll argue the point respectfully.
    @ David: I absolutely agree with the first part of your comment, I believe the Norway concept is the way to go. Should I be lucky enough to be elected I will most certainly be pushing for something very much like it.
    However, to both of you, if you don’t agree with what government is doing get off your backside and do something about it!
    Join a party, make some effort, don’t sit on the sidelines knocking the efforts of others! Stand-up! You are absolutely right about Territory politics lacking strong long term locals!
    So where the hell are you! Since founding Advance Alice I have constantly pushed this point. If you don’t like the constant reinvention of the wheel, if you don’t like blow-ins from south running our committees, if you don’t like decisions from governments made up of people with almost no Territory background, and who have no intention of staying around, then stand up! Because until you do we are going to have to put up with it!
    David, governments are elected to make decisions! Thats the whole idea!
    We might not like it but selling TIO was an absolute necessity it was about to bankrupt the Territory! Have a look at the figures. What would you have done? The port? We still own it! We’ve sold the lease for a considerable sum while also gaining a serious operator with massive plans for expansion.
    This, by the way, puts us in the same boat as most major ports in this country! Nearly all are leased out, at least two others to Chinese companies I believe. If you have a good look at the detail and forward predictions I think you will find that we got a pretty good deal. Time will tell of course.
    Peter, while in my older age I’m pretty good at working cooperatively with others. I don’t take instruction at all well! The only lines I will read are the ones I write myself!

  9. @ Peter (Posted July 29, 2016 at 4:14 pm): I wonder, Peter, when it was you were a member of the Alice Springs Branch of the CLP? I note with particular interest your comment: “My disillusionment with the party these days is in part that some of your hierarchy has trampled all over the Westminster system but in the most part, that those same people have trampled all over the conventions of the organisation.”
    I was an active local branch member of the CLP from 1984 to 1995, for exactly 10½ years. I joined aged 21; and at age 22, early in 1986, was elected onto the executive committee of the Flynn Branch. Another new member of that committee was Steve Brown but he soon disappeared from the scene.
    I also was elected as a Central Council delegate; and in less than two months attended my first meeting which resulted in the resignation of Ian Tuxworth as Chief Minister.
    Thus began a period of turmoil and controversy that during the remainder of the late 1980s saw the CLP’s 19 seat majority won in 1983 gradually whittled down to 13 seats – a majority of one – by late 1989. By early 1990 the CLP was facing the real prospect of its first defeat in a general election.
    I won’t go into the details as to how the CLP extricated itself from its massive problems but the party went on to win the election campaign of October 27, 1990, and from there proceeded to hold power for another decade.
    But in that very success in overcoming the odds the CLP sowed the seeds for its long-term demise. (It’s a remarkable coincidence, incidentally, that at that time in 1990-91 the NT Government built the original Don Dale facility for youth in conflict with the law).
    The reason for the CLP’s decay was due to the public’s impression of it as impregnable in office, an image reinforced by mainstream media portrayal of it over many years. The party attracted a significant number of people who sought to use their membership to gain entry into office and/or to gain advantage for themselves – the public interest for wise policy decisions and implementation was increasingly sidelined as a consequence.
    I resigned my membership of the CLP on March 14, 1995 – perish the thought, that’s 21 years ago! In my letter of resignation I made the following comments (among others): “Always having a tendency towards idealism, I find myself unwilling to participate in an organisation that places expediency before principle.
    “The CLP currently enjoys a position of considerable electoral advantage relative to any other political opponents. Such a perception is attractive to those who seek to exploit their association with the party more for their own benefit rather than for the good of the people.
    “Silence as a requirement of party loyalty runs the severe risk of simply providing a cover for questionable activities. The failure to bring certain members to account, no matter who they are or what role they have previously played, leaves the CLP vulnerable to Murphy’s dictum ‘At some time in the life cycle of virtually every organisation, its ability to succeed in spite of itself eventually runs out’.”
    I learnt later my letter of resignation was suppressed – a cartoon I drew of new Chief Minister Shane Stone published in the Alice Springs News prompted one prominent local CLP identity to call for my expulsion from the party.
    Later that year I went on to publish in four editions of the Alice Springs News, with the assistance of Erwin Chlanda, an account of the extensive infighting over candidate preselections and associated scandalous behaviour during 1993-4 which played a prominent part in my decision to leave the party.
    In so doing I became the only person in the CLP’s 42 year history to date to give any kind of public account of the internal machinations of the party.
    Only the Alice Springs News was willing to take the risk of publishing this material at a time when the CLP’s political revival in the 1990s was still in the ascendency.
    Nothing was learned, and nothing changed for the better. More and more mediocre identities were chosen by the party to positions of power.
    When Shane Stone mishandled the statehood campaign in 1998 and lost the support of his colleagues (little more than a year after leading the CLP to a huge election victory), the CLP finally lost its ability to succeed in spite of itself.
    When the CLP lost power in 2001, it had been in office continuously for 27 years. It has never really recovered for now, as Peter points out, the CLP faces the prospect that “by the 2020 election [it] will have been in power for just five of the past 20 years”.
    A major theme of NT politics at the time of the CLP’s defeat in 2001 was youth crime; and the CLP’s main policy response leading up to then (initiated by Stone and maintained by Dennis Burke) was mandatory sentencing, which prompted widespread and sustained national criticism. Who remembers? What have we learned?
    Similarly in the period leading up to their defeat in 2012, Labor had commenced the construction of the huge new prison at Holtze near Darwin to replace the Berrimah jail.
    It seems that a new pattern is emerging in Territory politics, namely that get tough policies on law and order precede a change in government.
    It’s time for honest and committed individuals to work out a new approach to politics in the Northern Territory, and maybe then we’ll start seeing the resolution of many entrenched problems that have their genesis from literally several decades ago.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here