1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody

Family and supporters of the Whittaker family gathered outside NSW Parliament on December 6 to demand justice for Eric Whittaker who died in custody in July.

Eric died, shackled to a hospital bed. The horrific nature of his treatment in custody has only come to light because a photo of him lying manacled and unconscious was only recently given to the media.

Diane Whittaker, one of Eric’s aunts, told protesters that there had been a failure in duty of care and that people had to be held responsible for the cruelty shown her nephew.

The shocking abuse suffered by children in Darwin's Don Dale detention centre revealed by the ABC's Four Corners on July 25 has angered wide layers of the community. It has also prompted a nationwide demand to take immediate action against the perpetrators and ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again in the juvenile detention system.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to call a narrowly focused royal commission into Northern Territory youth detention centres has been met with justifiable scepticism and criticism.

The ABC's Four Corners program exposed the abuse and mistreatment of children in juvenile detention in the Northern Territory. The abuse revealed was graphic and finally brought to the public's notice after many years of campaigning for attention to be paid to the treatment of children, especially Aboriginal children, in detention.

ABC's Four Corners released CCTV footage on July 25 of horrific abuse of youth offenders in Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, spanning six years of consistent abuse by detention centre staff of repeat offenders as young as 11 years old.

Some of the footage shows systematic abuse of youth offender Dylan Voller. Voller can be seen in solitary confinement being stripped naked and held down by staff. He can be seen beaten in front of other inmates for taking too long on the phone. Other incidents show guards trying to block cameras before beginning a round of abuse.

The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee (DICWC) has called on all parties contesting the federal election to commit to the establishment of a Custody Notification Service in each state and territory.

The NSW Custody Notification Service (CNS) — the only CNS operating in Australia — is a 24-hour legal advice and RU OK phone line for Aboriginal people taken into police custody. Significantly, there have been no Aboriginal deaths in police custody in NSW since the CNS was introduced in 2000.

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