• Former NT Corrections Minister John Elferink appearing before the royal commission. (File)Source: File
Indigenous kids abused for culture, claims Ex NT Minister.
28 Jun 2017 - 2:51 PM  UPDATED 28 Jun 2017 - 2:58 PM

A former Northern Territory minister has urged a royal commission to call upon Aboriginal leaders to abandon "damaging" cultural practices that "no longer have currency" and amount to child abuse.

Former CLP corrections minister John Elferink, who was sacked last year over the tear-gassing of kids in youth prison, reappeared before the juvenile justice and child protection royal commission on Wednesday.

Mr Elferink told the inquiry he was concerned about the prevalence of child brides and genital mutilation of boys in some indigenous communities during his tenure as minister for children.

Lawyer for the Northern Australia Aboriginal Justice Agency Dr Peggy Dwyer suggested Mr Elferink was "demonising" Aboriginal traditions and being culturally insensitive.

"You don't feel any any compunction do you about coming out with culturally insensitive comments about circumcision yourself." 

Mr Efferlink told the commission of a 2014 circumcision ceremony at Borroloola that left three boys so badly injured they were flown to Darwin for urgent medical treatment and said there'd been a number of criminal cases involving the underage marriage of girls.

Mr Elferink said he disagreed with NT government policy on what constituted child abuse, adding human rights should take priority over cultural rights.

"I would like the royal commission to turn their minds to this particular issue, and perhaps make recommendations to Aboriginal leaders about traditional practices that no longer have currency," he said.

"It's time to make certain statements about what the baseline of child protection should be, it should be applicable to all children irrespective of cultural background."

Dr Dwyer told the inquiry the last forced child relationship criminal case was more than a decade ago, and suggested Mr Elferink had no evidence to suggest another has occurred since then.

Inquiry co-commissioner Mick Gooda pointed out arranged child marriages are now treated as sexual assault.

"It might be that the Aboriginal community has already addressed it," he said.

His fellow commissioner Margaret White said hundreds of stories told to the inquiry by people from indigenous communities didn't support Mr Elferink's statements on forced marriage.

"It is a matter of concern to us that we have missed in our investigations this widespread practice to which you're making reference," she said.

But Mr Elferink insisted it continued "under a veil of secrecy", drawing on anecdotal evidence from several years as a politician representing the central Australian desert region.

Mr Elferink said when in government, he was unable to convince his cabinet colleagues to change the definition of child abuse as there would be a "substantial increase in child protection cases".

"Essentially, I was hamstrung," he told the Darwin hearing.

Senior counsel assisting the commission Peter Callaghan SC questioned why Mr Elferink didn't resign over such a fundamental difference of belief.

"You were willing to forgo your principles for the sake of keeping your cabinet position," Mr Callaghan said.

"I disagree with that, sir," Mr Elferink replied.

"I had so many things to achieve in so many other portfolios, I had to compromise."

The inquiry has previously heard evidence that four per cent of Aboriginal children in the NT are in out of home care as a result of sexual abuse.

With AAP.