• Commissioner Mick Gooda and Commissioner Margaret White during their tour of the former Don Dale Youth Detention facilities in the NT, Dec. 7, 2016. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Northern Territory juvenile justice royal commission's report is due today.
Lucy Hughes Jones

31 Mar 2017 - 8:30 AM  UPDATED 4 Apr 2017 - 12:14 PM

The Northern Territory's juvenile justice system is broken at every level and continues to fail young people, the royal commission says.

The $50 million inquiry released its interim report on Friday, the day it was originally expected to finish.

The report contains no findings or recommendations but slams the youth detention system for favouring punitive measures over rehabilitation.

The report did, however, welcome "initial steps" taken by the new Labor NT government in its $18 million overhaul to boost diversion workers and training for prison guards.

Don Dale ignored rules for 'at risk' kids
Procedures for dealing with kids at risk of self-harm were not being followed more than a decade after a death in custody at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, a royal commission has been told.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the report vindicated his youth justice reform agenda.

"It certainly gives confidence to us as a government that we are going down the right policy path," he said.

The damming report found the juvenile justice system was "likely to leave many children and young people more damaged than when they entered".

"It fails those who work in those systems and it fails the people of the Northern Territory who are entitled to live in safer communities," co-commissioner Margaret White said.

The report found the NT's "harsh, bleak" detention facilities are unfit for children to live in or guards to work in.

But the commission advised the NT government to hold off on building a new facility to replace the notoriously inadequate Don Dale Detention Centre until after the inquiry delivers its final report on August 1.

Mr Gunner admitted he'd hoped for earlier direction but said he's already invested into Don Dale infrastructure to make it safer and secure in the short term.

The report advocated crime prevention, early intervention and community engagement to break the cycle of crime.

"For a system to work, children and young people in detention must be given every opportunity to get their lives on track and to re-enter the community less likely to reoffend," Ms White said.

The report revealed the Territory has the nation's highest rate of young people in detention and child protection services, by a considerable margin.

About 94 per cent of those kids locked up and 89 per cent in care are Aboriginal.

And the number of youngsters entering detention has more than doubled in the past decade.

Aboriginal kids are 25 times more likely to be locked up than their non-indigenous peers, according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures released on Friday.

"Children and young people in out-of-home care are more likely to enter the youth detention system. Those systems are inextricably linked," co-commissioner Mick Gooda said.

Ms White said there was no quick fix in effecting long-term change, so the commission wouldn't rush any recommendations.


The inquiry has already been under way for eight months and in December, it was granted a four-month extension.

It was sparked when footage of boys being tear gassed, shackled and spit-hooded was aired on national television last year.

The commission still needs to hear from politicians in charge at the time of the 2014 incident before shifting its focus to the care and protection system.

As National Youth Week kicks off on Friday, more than 100 organisations have urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to set an indigenous incarceration Close the Gap target.

Oxfam Australia was among those that signed the open letter, and chief executive Dr Helen Szoke said appalling abuses were not unique to the NT.

"It is a crisis which demands an urgent national plan of action," she said.