PM announces Royal Commission into NT juvenile mistreatment

ABC Four Corners investigation

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says a Royal Commission will be established into the mistreatment of juvenile inmates at a centre near Darwin, following an ABC Four Corners investigation that showed shocking footage of teenagers being gassed and shackled.

A Royal Commission will be established into a Northern Territory facility after The ABC’s Four Corners program  aired shocking footage that showed six boys being tear-gassed, as well as one 17-year-old boy being hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says the commission will involve the NT government and will aim to "get to the bottom of what happened".

"We want to know how this came about, we want to know what lessons can be learned from it," Mr Turnbull told ABC Radio.

"This is a shocking state of affairs and we will move quickly to establish what happened."

Mr Turnbull said the Royal Commission will be established "as soon as possible" and will involve a swift inquiry into the Don Dale centre.

"We need to expose what occurred and expose the culture that allowed it to occur..for so long," Mr Turnbull said.

Australia’s human rights chief Gillian Triggs last night called for an independent government-based investigation to determine whether people should be charged over the mistreatment.

“We certainly need some kind of government-based independent commission,” Ms Triggs told ABC TV’s Q&A program.

“The CCTV footage was disgraceful. That you could even refer to children in (that) way, let alone what they did physically to the children in terms of the tear gas and the stripping of them of their clothes and leaving them in isolation for such long periods.

“It’s not good enough to say this has been fixed up. We need a proper inquiry and the facts need to be determined and then we can determine whether people should be charged,” Professor Triggs said.

NT Chief Minister Adam Giles says he was shocked by the footage and has spoken to the Prime Minister about the establishment of a Royal Commission. Mr Giles has also asked the Commissioner of NT Police to consider whether or not the incidents highlighted by Four Corners were in accordance with the powers afforded to custodial officers.

Former Labor Indigenous senator Nova Peris tweeted that she had previously visited the Don Dale youth detention centre and that there were “no rehab programs for these children, the NT juvenile justice system is disgraceful”.

Amnesty International has called for an end to the “systemic abuse of children in youth detention,” labelling the footage shown on the Four Corners program a “shocking violation" of both the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture.

Indigenous Rights’ Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia Julian Cleary called on the government to launch an investigation into the NT youth detention system.

“The footage of guards laughing at a child being tear-gassed and in distress defies belief,” Mr Cleary said.

“To see a crying, distressed child seized by his neck, forced to the ground, manhandled, stripped naked by three grown men and left naked in a cell is just sickening.”

Source: SBS, ABC, AAP

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