More than 100 people rallied at Todd Mall, Alice Springs, against youth incarceration and torture on October 11. The national day of protest included actions in Darwin, Newcastle, Adelaide and Sydney and coincided with the first day of the Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory.
It was the 12th consecutive week of protest against the treatment of young people in Northern Territory detention facilities. While views on the usefulness of a Royal Commission varied, speakers concurred that youth incarceration is a perpetuation of broader systemic oppression.
Arrente custodian and human rights activist Elaine Peckham told the crowd: “It’s not only about [youth prisons] it’s about everything, it’s about health, it’s about education and it’s about how we’ve been treated through the intervention.
“It’s nearly 10 years since the Intervention took place, I was part of that in 2007 living on my homelands. So from 2007 onwards I never stopped speaking up for my rights. And look what it is doing to us every day of our lives — it’s trying to disempower us. We believe that we have a voice so let’s go out and use it.”
Uniting Church minister Steve Bevis said: “We demand that [the Royal Commission] focuses on the strengths of families, on the strengths of communities, on the strengths of Aboriginal culture. And we stop putting pathways in place that lead kids into detention, imprisonment, into a sense that normal is going to court, normal is going to prison. That [Alice Springs] prison out there has 650 people in it; it was built for 450. We can’t allow another generation to think that prison is normal.”
Speakers also shared simple initiatives that look towards community-based responses for youth justice.