Dozens of concerned Darwin residents have attended a candlelight vigil outside the Don Dale youth detention centre, calling for their release after being abused and tortured at the hands of corrections staff.
By
Laura Morelli

Source:
NITV News
4 Aug 2016 - 10:11 AM  UPDATED 4 Aug 2016 - 10:11 AM

The peaceful gathering called for Australian authorities to do more to protect the human rights of children, and was sparked after vision emerged of young detainees being stripped, beaten; tear gassed and strapped in a mechanical restraint chair.

Shining a light on the mistreatment of young people in Northern Territory detention, Human rights activists, concerned citizens and legal authorities gathered outside the now notorious juvenile detention centre at dusk.

"It would compel the government to form an independent reviewing mechanism... allow access to all detention centres in Australia for inspection and recommended changes - which the Australian government would be bound to.” 

Amnesty International Darwin Action group organised the vigil and member Alasdair Hill, says it’s important for the community to work together.

“It's important for the community to come together… Amnesty international is one of many that is here and we look forward to a future on going presence within the Darwin community supporting human rights.”

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The group has called on the Federal Government to immediately ratify the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture - A binding document which would ensure all Australian detention centres are independently monitored.

“By signing and ratifying OPCAT which is what its abbreviated for, will compel the government to form an independent reviewing mechanism and in doing so will allow access to all detention centres in Australia to an independent body, which can then inspect and from there, recommend changes which the Australian government would be bound to,” Hill said.

“For too long in the Northern Territory there's almost been a silent majority who've condoned brutal and barbaric practices that have happened in youth detention.”

It's been over a week since the confronting footage of Aboriginal children being tear gassed, strapped to chairs and stripped in their cells sent shock-waves across Australia and around the world.


North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency lawyer Jared Sharp, featured in the Four Corners program. He represents the young men, some of which are still locked up in the Don Dale detention centre. Sharp says they’re overwhelmed by the show of solidarity and support in the days since.

“It's just been so incredibly reassuring to hear the views of the Australian people who've condemned the types of things that have happened here because for too long in the Northern Territory there's almost been a silent majority who've condoned brutal and barbaric practices that have happened in youth detention.”

“The royal commission will not fix the problems that are going on now. Don Dale is an old adult prison that was decommissioned because it was no longer fit for purpose to house adults... So how is it still okay to have 25 to 45 kids in there at any one time?"

Mr Sharpe praised the Federal government for its swift response in announcing a Royal Commission - but said he remains concerned about the immediate welfare of the 25 young detainees who remain incarcerated.

“The royal commission will not fix the problems that are going on now. This facility at Don Dale is an old adult prison that was decommissioned because it was no longer fit for purpose to house adults. So how is it still okay as we speak to have 25 to 45 kids in there at any one time... I mean it is just outrageous that that's not something that his nation is immediately calling to change,” He said.

Another protest rally is being planned in Darwin in coming days.

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