• A shot from the Four Corner's investigation into inmate mistreatment at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre (ABC, Four Corners)Source: ABC, Four Corners
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 ABC's Four Corners program last night. Northern Territory Minister John Elferink has also been sacked from his Corrections portfolio
Karina Marlow

26 Jul 2016 - 6:00 PM  UPDATED 27 Jul 2016 - 10:11 AM

The announcement came this morning after consultation with the Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles.

The Commission will be conducted jointly between the Federal and the Northern Territory Governments and will examine how the incidents came about. The aim is to expose 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. 

The Prime Minister has explained that the commission will be established as soon as possible by the Federal Attorney-General, however the terms of reference are yet to be worked out. As the Northern Territory is due to head to the polls on 27 August, the Chief Minister Adam Giles has called for the process to begin before a caretaker government comes in on 8 August. 

The announcement of a Royal Commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory comes twenty-five years after the Federal government released the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

Royal Commission called into NT juvenile detention
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

Organisations call for their input into Commission

A coalition of Northern Territory Aboriginal advocacy organisations representing the medical, legal, cultural and land rights sectors has called for the inclusion of their expertise into the terms of reference. 

"We are seeking urgent discussions with the Prime Minister to ensure this Royal Commission actually meets the needs of those most affected, and ultimately creates the momentum for reform of the entire youth justice system in the NT."

The group also calls for the Federal Government to dissolve the NT Government and to take full control of the Commission over their concerns for its impartiality and independence. 

Lawyer calls for release of inmate

Peter O'Brien, the lawyer for Dylan Voller who was shown hooded and strapped to a mechanical restraint chair, has called for his immediate release from solitary confinement. 

“He must be released immediately. The impact of these years of brutalisation must be immediately measured and he needs immediate assistance”

Dylan Voller’s lawyer seeks immediate release after footage shows severe abuse
The lawyer of a young man who featured in a Four Corners story about abuse of young offenders in the Northern Territory has asked for the teenagers immediate release from prison.

In an interview with NITV, he also called for the Federal Government to take over all responsibility for juveniles in detention in the NT and claimed the issues are not isolated to one part of Australia.  

Mr O'Brien also acts for 16 year old Jake Roper who was filmed returning to the detention centre naked, hooded and handcuffed after escaping from his cell. On behalf of both his clients he has launched a suit against the Northern Territory government for assault, battery and false imprisonment, arising from their treatment within the NT youth detention system.

Peter O'Brien will be interviewed tonight on NITV News at 7.20pm. 


Sister speaks out

The sister of Dylan Voller, who was seen to be repeatedly mistreated by the guards at the Don Dale Detention facility in the Four Corners footage, spoke to ABC Darwin this morning about her brother's treatment. 

She described him as a 'scared little boy' and blamed the detention centre staff for causing her brother more damage through their actions rather than helping him. 

"These people are already full-grown adults and made that decision to harm that child while they were working," she said. "The Government gave them … that responsibility to care for these kids. Instead they abused that role."

She also spoke at a protest against the treatment of Northern Territory youth in detention in Alice Springs today.

Reactions to shocking treatment of youth in NT detention
After shocking vision emerged of the mistreatment of juvenile inmates in the Northern Territory, there has been a public outcry for change in the justice system.

Adam Giles on cover-ups

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles has claimed that there has been a culture of cover ups in the NT corrections system despite the submission of a report into the tear-gassing incident to the Northern Territory Government in September 2015 by the Children's Commissioner. 

He has ordered the Northern Territory Police to form a taskforce to investigate any other cases of abuse in detention. 

NT Minister sacked from Corrections portfolio

The Northern Territory Minister John Elferink was sacked from his Corrections portfolio today by Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles who will take on the position himself. However, Elferink retains five other Northern Territory Portfolios including Minister for Children and Families, Minister for Health and the role of Attorney-General. 

The sacking comes after claims for for change across the whole Northern Territory government. 

The Four Corner's story

The Four Corner's aired a special investigation 'Australia's Shame' into the treatment of young people at the Northern Territory's juvenile detention centres on Monday night. 

The program contained previously unreleased footage of violent incidents that occurred at the Don Dale centre including video of six boys being repeatedly subject to tear gas while they were being held in isolation cells. 

Other footage shows teenagers being stripped naked in their cells, being hit in the face and thrown to the floor.

Northern Territory Juvenile Detention

The Northern Territory currently runs two juvenile detention facilities: the Don Dale facility located out of Darwin and the Alice Springs Juvenile Holding Centre.

The original Don Dale facility was closed in December 2014 after concerns about its security and detainees were moved to a Berrimah Correctional Centre, a former adult prison. The prison 37-year old prison underwent an $800,000 renovation which included the addition of a behavior management wing and a demountable school block. 

The NT Chief Minister Adam Giles has today committed to building a new youth detention facility. 

For more information on the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, check out this article by the Feed.


  • Indigenous children are 26 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous children in Australia.
  • Indigenous Australian’s make up 3% of Australia’s population but more than half of the young people in juvenile detention.
  • The NT has the highest rate of youth incarceration in Australia, with 75% of those detained awaiting court hearings or sentencing.
  • 97% of the NT’s juvenile inmates are Indigenous.

For more check out the Feed's round-up of Indigenous youth in detention in Australia