• A still from the footage obtained by Four Corners. (ABC)
The Prime Minister has called for a Royal Commission into the Northern Territory's youth detention centres after graphic footage of inmates being mistreated was aired on the ABC's Four Corners program last night. WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE
By
Karina Marlow

Source:
AAP, SBS
26 Jul 2016 - 10:29 AM  UPDATED 26 Jul 2016 - 2:37 PM

The announcement was made early this morning after consultation with the Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles, who issued a statement saying he was 'shocked and disgusted' and calling for a Royal Commission. 

The Commission will be conducted jointly with the Northern Territory Government and examine how the incidents came about with a view to exposing the culture of mistreatment that occurred in the various detention centres, including the Don Dale detention centre which is at the centre of the allegations. 

Malcolm Turnbull labelled the incidents a "shocking state of affairs" and has explained that the commission will be established as soon as possible by the Federal Attorney-General. 

Indigenous Labor Senator Pat Dodson has congratulated the Prime Minister on the announcement and labelled the abuse of inmates a matter of "utter shame". 

"The fact young people have been treated in this manner obviously shows there's no concept of the duty of care which is a principle matter highlighted in the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody," he told the ABC. 

This footage shows fourteen-year-old Jake Roper, who escaped from his cell and was illegally taken to the adult prison. The next day he is returned to Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, hooded and handcuffed.

Senator Dodson has also called for the Northern Territory Attorney General to stand down in the meantime as "the person responsible for the oversight of these duties and responsibilities". 

 "These kids have been subject to this torture and mistreatment since 2010 basically, and some of them repeatedly, and you can't allow the people who have been in charge of this ... to remain in charge."

The former commissioner into Aboriginal deaths in custody has called for bipartisan support and for issue of incarceration to be further discussed by the Council of Australian Governments.

The Four Corners footage

Six boys held in isolation cells were allegedly tear gassed at a juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory.

The ABC program Four Corners has obtained footage of the 2014 incident at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin which was broadcast on Monday night, showing boys were locked in their cells at the time.

The boys can be seen looking frightened and trying to cover themselves from the tear gas.

After being sprayed they were then taken outside, shackled and doused with a fire hose.

One boy is heard saying: “I can’t breathe!”

Northern Territory authorities had described the incident as a riot and claimed multiple boys had escaped their cells.

The NT government had praised the guards at the time for acting appropriately.

"I congratulate again, and place my support behind, the staff who made this decision. The staff worked hard, Fluffy the Alsatian worked hard and, as far as we are concerned, it was a problem that was solved quickly," NT Corrections Minister John Elferink told Parliament.

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The Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said there is cause for concern.

"Last year when the news broke it was portrayed very differently to what we see on the vision,” he said.

“To think that in today's modern society that we have centres like the Don Dale centre, where people get put into solitary confinement, and that they treat them the way they've been treated... it’s very concerning."

Some of the traumatised boys have spoken about enduring horrific conditions and punishments, with reports children as young as 13-years-old had been put into solitary confinement while living at the facility.

A group of lawyers helped blow the whistle on the Don Dale facility when they toured it in 2014.

The CEO of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) Priscilla Collins was among the group who noticed boys were being kept in isolation, and described the scene as “shocking.”

"They took us into this room, brick walls, no light, no air conditioning. You could hear sounds, and I asked 'are there people in there?' They said ‘yeah they're the youths,’" she recalled.

When asked about the teargassing incident, she said they found the news disturbing and that it pointed to a lack of appropriate training for the staff.

“I understand the situation at that time was not a good one, but surely the prison officers based at juvenile detention centres are specifically trained to deal with youth and they should have handled that incident in a better way.”

NAAJA says that poor facilities are the result of a lack of funding for the NT Department of Corrections, and a lack of willingness by the government to increase funding.

“It [Don Dale] is not even set up as a detention centre. There were fans on pedestals, extension cords all over the place…I was like, I have no idea what you think a detention centre looks like but this isn’t it,” she said.

This video shows footage of 13 year old Dylan Voller being knocked to the ground by a guard after refusing to end a phone call, as other inmates watch on. 

“70 per cent of those youths are on remand, and haven't actually been sentenced to the detention centre."

Mr Calma, who has championed Indigenous causes for more than 40 years, said the solution to reducing the prison population lies in working with the community to make sure crimes aren’t committed in the first place.

“Unfortunately around the nation we don't see enough effort being put into the prisons to prepare them for their release," said Mr Calma.

“By and large we know that anyone who goes into youth detention there’s a high proportion of those that will go on to adult incarceration.”

“The federal government has actually had a senate inquiry into justice reinvestment, and have come up with a whole list of recommendations on that program. But what we’re seeing is that report sitting on the book shelves and it hasn’t been implemented,” said Mr Calma.