LETTER TO THE EDITOR
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.
PHOTO: 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.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR