• Hundreds of people, from academics to justice advocates have signed a petition condemning strict youth reforms in the NT's criminal justice system. (AAP)Source: AAP
The new proposals would give police significantly more power over young people. Advocates say it flies in the face of recommendations made by Royal Commissions past.
Bernadette Clarke

29 Mar 2021 - 5:51 PM  UPDATED 29 Mar 2021 - 5:51 PM

Over five hundred people have signed a petition condemning strict youth reforms in the Northern Territory's criminal justice system.

Last week, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory Michael Gunner and Minister for Police, Fire and Emergencies Nicole Manison revealed a plan that would give police more power over young people.

Advocates are angry that the new measures don't take into consideration recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, or the 2017 Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. 

Police given more powers over young people in NT to 'cut crime'
New measures include 'tougher than ever consequences for breach of bail', expanded options to apply Electronic Monitoring and legislative and non-legislative processes to target repeat offenders.

Senior Fellow from Melbourne Law School Eddie Cubillo was involved in the 2017 commission. With strong family links to the Northern Territory as a Larrakia/Wadjigan and Central Arrente man, he's disappointed by the government's proposals, and strongly denounced the new measures.

"I travelled right around the NT - we spoke to Indigenous people and non-Indigenous peoples, a lot of people gave us their time and spoke to us openly about these issues."

"They want to make change in their community and make it safer for everybody. I think that we really need to take on board (the Royal Commission's) recommendations."

The 2017 Royal Commission made hundreds of recommendations, including: allowing children aged under 14 to be detained only for serious crimes; requiring youth justice officers to have demonstrated experience in working with youth; and having an increased engagement with Aboriginal Organisations in child protection, youth justice and detention.

 Reflecting on history, Mr Cubillo told NITV News that the 'tough on crime' approach has never worked, whatever issues the community may be facing. 

"That was the whole concept in regards to the Royal Commission - that you need to look at all the underlying issues that are based in communities and put real effort into those areas to change that sort of behavior."

The petition will be forwarded to ministers by Mr Cubillo, as he hopes to encourage members of parliament to stand against the reform.