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

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

Indigenous Affairs Indigenous Advisory Council
Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council (the Council) welcomes the release of the report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, tabled in Parliament on 17 November 2017.

The Terms of Reference asked the Commission to look at the Northern Territory’s youth detention and welfare over the 10 years from 1 August 2006. The Commission heard more than 480 witness statements and received more than 400 separate submissions.

We would like to acknowledge the people who came forward to share their stories, especially the voices of children and young people who did so with courage in spite of how daunting this can be.

The report highlighted opportunities to better respect and rehabilitate our young people and restoring the failed detention and child protection systems in the Northern Territory.

The importance of the work done by Commissioners, the Honourable Margaret White AO, and Mr Mick Gooda is to be commended. Their willingness and fervour to suggest changes to the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory in the face of systemic failures known and ignored at the highest levels demonstrates strength of integrity and courage.

The report states: The Commission heard evidence from individuals and organisations that the child protection system in the Northern Territory often could not protect vulnerable or at risk children and families. We listened to many stories which told us of a system which harmed children when it should have protected them, ignored children and families when it should have helped and supported them. We heard that the whole welfare system needed big changes.

These problems mostly affect Aboriginal people. To improve youth justice and welfare, Aboriginal people need to be involved in making decisions. The changes the Commission has suggested will only happen if governments listen to Aboriginal people’s ideas and include Aboriginal people in the decisions at every step of the way.

The Northern Territory and Commonwealth Governments have been encouraged to adopt the large number of reforms from the evidence based findings.

We value the importance of having safe and secure environments for children including protection and detention systems, which are focussed on ensuring children do return to their family and community, with knowledge, skills and experiences to assist them transition in to community life with confidence and certainty.

The children and young people of our communities are our future and their success deserves the greatest effort we can afford.