Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

Close Don Dale Now

Almost six years since the Royal Commission into the Detention and Protection of Children in the Northern Territory delivered its findings, the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is still open. Stephen W Enciso reports.

The NT government is committed to keep incarcerating children in Don Dale Youth Detention Centre until at least “late 2023”, reports Stephen W Enciso.

Pressure on the NT government to close down Don Dale youth detention centre is growing. Stephen W Enciso reports.

Activists are continuing to pressure the NT government to close Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, writes Stephen W Enciso.

All 38 children held in detention in the Northern Territory — 17 in Darwin’s Don Dale detention centre and 21 in Alice Springs — are Aboriginal, a parliamentary committee was told on June 20.

Deputy chief executive of the NT Families Department Jeanette Kerr was being questioned about how the rate of Aboriginal children in detention had changed since the Royal Commission into Juvenile Detention.

“As of today, 100% of the children in detention are Aboriginal,” she said. “The proportions have not changed since the royal commission."

Sam Watson, a leading Murri activist from Brisbane, has been involved in Aboriginal rights struggles since the 1960s.

He is a prominent author, playwright and filmmaker, and is the Aboriginal affairs spokesperson for Socialist Alliance. A Birri Gubba man, he was previously an academic at the University of Queensland, and received honours for his 1990 novel The Kadaitchi Sung and acclaim for his 1995 film Black Man Down.

Watson spoke to Green Left Weekly’s Jim McIlroy about the issues confronting Aboriginal people.

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory released its interim report on March 31. Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White are now due to deliver their final report on August 1.

Conan Zamolo, a former youth justice officer at Don Dale youth detention centre, has admitted he filmed himself bursting into a cell and repeatedly asking the boys in their beds to give him oral sex.

He was giving evidence to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

Zomolo said he was "goofing around" in the videos and had a "good relationship with the kids".

Zamolo also admitted to the hearing he had filmed children being forced to eat bird faeces and posted the footage on social media site Snapchat.

The deadline for submissions to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory has been extended by four months.

The royal commission was announced on July 26 by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to investigate allegations of abuse of minors in the NT’s child detention system.

It came on the back of a July 25 Four Corners episode that showed youth detainees being stripped, beaten and strapped into a chair in “Guantanamo-style” conditions.

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.

Don Dale video still

On Monday July 25, Australia's ABC Four Corners program broadcast footage of Aboriginal children being abused in detention, bringing to international attention a story that had been largely ignored for years.

Footage aired last week of children being abused in a Northern Territory prison sent shockwaves around the nation. These images forced us to grapple with the problem as if it were breaking news, despite the fact that so many people knew so much about it for so long. Nevertheless, a royal commission is being established, and although many would like to see a wider scope, accountability for abuses of this nature must be the ultimate result.