$35m for youth detainees: Bitter pill or settlement for mistreatment?



Revelations the Gunner Labor Government have agreed to pay $35m in compensation to up to 1200 current or former youth detainees is a bitter pill for Territorians and victims of crime to swallow.

A detailed explanation by Government about the reasons behind the out-of-court settlement is required because of the consequences it could have on victims of crime.

There is very scant information available to the public with this settlement. If the Gunner Government had it their way, Territorians would never have found out about the $35m. It’s disgraceful that they wanted to hide this from Territorians.

Territorians and victims want to know if the Gunner Government is going to make the offenders who are awarded this compensation pay back their debt to society through victim levies or restitution.

Territorians will rightly expect offenders to pay their debt to society.

As of March there were 1674 victims who have applied for victims of crime compensation and the average wait they face is over three years.

Under questioning from the Opposition during Estimates Committee hearings, it was revealed only $100,000 in compensation had been recovered direct from offenders to pay victims over a period of nine months.

The 1200 youths eligible to apply for compensation were in prison for committing crimes, and while no-one should be mistreated in prison, victims will undoubtedly feel left behind by the Gunner Government once again.

Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro



[I am commenting] following the announcement of a $35m settlement between the NT Government and children who were mistreated in its youth detention system.

We, and others who work with children in the Northern Territory every day, are deeply concerned  by changes to the Bail Act that came into effect in May which have already condemned more children to detention when they should be supported in the community instead.

Three decades ago we had a Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and five years ago we had a Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

How many more Royal Commissions do we need before political leaders finally heed the advice of Elders, experts and people with lived experience and commit to reform that supports, not further harms, vulnerable children?

We, and the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA), are currently holding the 5th National Justice Symposium in Alice Springs to explore what successful youth justice reform looks like. The event coincides with the five year anniversary of the announcement of the NT Royal Commission.

Julie Edwards, CEO, Jesuit Social Services


Updated 5am July 29.


  1. Disgusting. Don’t forget the millions spent on the Royal Commission and the massive salaries paid to the so called experts.
    The only winners are the crims and the grubby lawyers. The victims it seems can whistle in the wind.

  2. Imagine being strapped into a restraint chair.
    Every part of you is tightly immobilised by numerous wide straps.
    You literally can’t move a muscle.
    A common reaction is to spit at your torturers.
    But a spit hood has been secured over your head to blind you and remove that possibility.
    Just thinking about this makes me feel claustrophobic but one youth was subjected to this for prolonged periods of time.
    He was hooded and strapped in the chair in both the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre and in the old Don Dale from the age of about 11 or 12.
    These incidents occurred before the NT Parliament amended the Youth Justice Act in 2016 to legally allow “modern mechanical devices of restraint” be used on children.
    This mistreatment of a child was unlawful.
    Video of teen prisoners tear-gassed, stripped, and carried by neck in NT youth detention, and of Corrections Commissioner Middlebrook urging guards to use more chemicals on children created community outrage.
    That’s why the NT Government is now paying $35m.

  3. Whist the treatment seems poor in some cases, perhaps don’t put yourself in the position of having to be restrained in that manner and you probably won’t be!
    So out of 35 million we get a return of 100k? Another sound investment by Gunner.
    No one has advised residents of the NT, who we can see to commence a class action against the Government on behalf of the victims of and fallout from crime.
    We have paid increases in insurance premiums, increase in costs for security to our homes, businesses and cars, increases in taxes to pay for the 35 million payout, let alone the damage caused by domestic violence, rapes an assaults in general.
    Then of course there’s the fact that so many of us are afraid to go out at night, that should be worth a few bucks.
    A class action to sue the multiple agencies for failing to protect us seems reasonable to me.
    We already pay for protection via our taxes and the government continually fails to deliver.

  4. Jon, these people are not in detention for helping old ladies across the street or volunteering at the old timers fate.

  5. @ John: there are rehab programs that address the underlying causes of youth crime.
    They are strict but build purpose and self esteem in young people’s lives.
    They reconnect them with society and the values we hold dear.
    One of the outcomes of those programs is that young people feel remorse for their crimes against society.
    NT children in detention did not receive those programs.
    Of course they feel no remorse, we have added to their alienation and hatred.
    Now you complain that they should compensate their victims?
    @ Surprised: It’s their fault?
    We can do better and we have to if we are serious about reducing youth crime.

  6. @ Jon: We all have to accept responsibility for our actions.
    Let’s look at something a little less emotive. I am a smoker, if I get cancer and die, is it my fault, society, my parents, the government for allowing cigarettes, the manufacturer, or mine?
    So let’s get back to the responsibility word, shall we?
    So to answer your question, in most cases YES.


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