• The NT Royal Commission is holding three weeks of public hearings, relevant site visits and community meetings from 11 to 28 October 2016. (File Image)Source: File Image
Senior Counsel Assisting Peter Callaghan SC has questioned the validity of the NT Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
By
Elliana Lawford

Source:
NITV News
11 Oct 2016 - 1:24 PM  UPDATED 11 Oct 2016 - 1:43 PM

In his statement, Counsel Assisting Peter Callaghan noted that there have been numerous other inquiries that have already addressed many of the concerns at the heart of the commission’s terms of reference.

“We have identified more than 50 reports that have some relevance,” he says.

“Most of these have been produced in the last 10 years.”

There have been two previous royal commissions and 23 independent inquiries which have given recommendations that are relevant to this royal commission. 

Mr Callaghan referred specifically to the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody, which examined the deaths of 99 people, including three who died in juvenile detention. 

He then addressed community concerns that this royal commission would achieve nothing.

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“Our review makes good the proposition advanced by Commissioner Gooda at the directions hearing, when he said there was not a need for more to be done to describe the issues. With that observation, commissioners, we respectfully agree,” he told the Northern Territory Supreme Court.

“But the very fact there has been so many reports prepared already, and the very existence of this commission after so much has been said and written and raised, we suggest, another issue all together.

“It invites a question: do we need to confront some sort of inquiry mentality in which investigations are allowed as a substitution for action and reporting is accepted as a replacement for results? The bare fact that there has been so much said and so much written, over such a long time is suggestive of a persistent failure that should not be allowed to endure.”

“But the very fact there has been so many reports prepared already, and the very existence of this commission after so much has been said and written and raised, we suggest, another issue all together."

Mr Callaghan said that while the commission was not focusing specifically on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, it was impossible to ignore their over-representation in the youth justice and child protection systems. 

He said the statistics cannot be ignored, with Indigenous people in the Northern Territory making up 95 per cent of young people in detention in 2013-14, and 86 per cent of the children under care and protection orders, despite only making up 30 per cent of the NT population.