'Royal Commission report will live as stain on the NT'


Sir – The Royal Commission was borne out of the treatment of children in the care of the Northern Territory and it is the story of our failures to care, protect and build those who needed it most.
This report will live as a stain on the Northern Territory reputation.
The day the Royal Commission was called in July last year, I accepted responsibility as a community leader. Youth justice is supposed to make our kids better, not break them. It is supposed to teach them to be a part of our society, not withdraw.
As Chief Minister, I accepted the responsibility of making the changes necessary so no Chief Minister needs to address this again.
Our Government has in principle agreed to immediately close the High Security Unit at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
Both the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre will be closed as recommended by the Commission.
The Territory Labor Government will allocate $50m towards setting up youth justice infrastructure and is seeking a similar contribution from the Commonwealth Government.
2499 Royal Commission rally OKPHOTO: Speakers at a small rally opposite the law courts in Alice Springs, responding to the report of the Commission.
I announce in principle support for:-
• Introducing supported bail accommodation to keep young people out of detention;
• Introducing one Act for child protection and youth justice;
• Expanding the Office of the Children’s Commissioner to become a Children’s Commission with powers that include the monitoring of the implementation of the Royal Commission and an Aboriginal Co-Commissioner;
• Implementing a public health approach to child protection with greater involvement of the Aboriginal Community Controlled sector in family support and early intervention; and
• Creating a greater emphasis on diversion at the point of police contact and alternatives to detention.
Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield has not waited for the report and is already implementing reforms across youth justice, child protection, local decision making, community safety, and Aboriginal affairs.
We have taken action on a number of key issues and have made major investments and program reforms that align with many of the recommendations. We have shifted the focus from punishment to education and rehabilitation.
$18.2m was allocated to the youth justice and child protection reform program, which addresses many of the challenges that the Royal Commission identified in its interim report.
The Royal Commission findings will drive further change so that we can create pathways for young people to be contributing members of our community, and divert them from a life of crime.
This is why we recently created a small, tightly-focused Reform Management Office which will lead planning and monitoring of the whole-of-Government response to the Royal Commission report.”
Over the past 12 months, the Territory Labor Government’s top major reforms include:
• The establishment of Territory Families to bring Child Protection and Youth Justice under one roof to ensure that there is an agency that can effect connected reforms;
• $18.2m invested into the Better Outcomes for Youth Justice reform;
• Funding and establishment of the Youth Outreach Re-engagement Teams (YORETs) in five locations including Darwin/Palmerston, Alice Springs, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Nhulunbuy;
• A range of youth diversion, support and rehabilitation programs including the Operations Flinders Youth Wilderness Camps, court-ordered victim offender conferencing and interim supported bail accommodation;
• Turning detention centres from punitive responses to rehabilitation in order to break the cycle of crime. This includes the abolishment of restraint chairs and the use of isolation as punishment;
• Co-design of soon to be launched improvements to family support services;
• Five year funding arrangements introduced to give security to NGO partners and their clients by ensuring that service providers are best able to budget, recruit and strategically plan for the future;
• Ongoing consultation and partnership with Aboriginal Peak Organisations to develop an Aboriginal Out of Home Care strategy for the Northern Territory.
Michael Gunner
Chief Minister


  1. Breathtaking the speed that Mr Gunner has embraced all the far reaching long term solutions to our law and order problems.
    Of course by the time the failure of these feel good reforms are realised Mr Gunner will be enjoying a retired life perhaps with a little extra police protection due to his exalted prior position as Chief Minister.
    My question is what you are doing right now Mr Gunner to stem the epidemic crime wave in Alice Springs?
    Watch this space, summer is coming and no amount of feel good rhetoric and open Government check books will save us.

  2. Build far out of town self sufficient rural area farm and schools, near Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs, and employ football coaches for sport.
    Challenges are necessary for tough young guys to learn and play. Build football ovals and mining type dongas on site and teach building.

  3. This is not a Federal government issue. Why should they be helping to fund it, or should I say the taxpayers’ moneys? Why is Gunner not approaching the Indigenous councils to contribute as the statistics show 85% are Indigenous juveniles.
    The massive debt of the NT is another stain on the NT.

  4. Having read through the statement by Commissioner Margaret White AO and Commissioner Mick Gooda it is clear that implementing the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory is unquestionably the highest priority of the Gunner Government and all members of the NT Legislative Assembly.
    Although this Royal Commission was triggered by revelations in the media about what was happening in the existing Don Dale facility, the extent of the problems revealed are a culmination of decades of intergenerational trauma inflamed by inadequate or mishandled responses by governments and their agencies.
    The essential resources and finances required to implement the reforms outlined by the commissioners must be accorded the first priority, if necessary at the expense of financing for other major projects.
    We’ve all known about this problem for a very long time as it has been extensively reported in the media for many years – we don’t have any real excuses to shift blame or turn our attention to other matters of less importance.
    The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that a great opportunity is now apparent to make real and lasting reforms towards bringing an end to this protracted misery.
    Our elected representatives, be they in government or opposition, require our earnest support to allow them to take decisive actions that will assist all young people, especially those in disadvantaged circumstances, to grow and lead fulfilled lives.

  5. I don’t want children held in detention shackled, I don’t want children put into isolation. But, I also want the children to know that there is a penalty to pay for stealing, throwing rocks, assaulting people etc.
    Putting the kids up in a new facility, being fed, clothed, showered and playing games to amuse them and stop them from being bored seems more like a reward.

  6. Does Chief Minister Michael Gunner guarantee treatment of detained youths and adults? This should not be qualified using racial identification.
    Racism within Australia is mostly by government(s).


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