• ‘Path to Treaty’ working group, Mick Gooda, is listening to the community in Toowoomba on Tuesday. (AAP)Source: AAP
Aboriginal peak bodies have warned against government ‘buck-passing’ in implementing the juvenile justice royal commission's recommendations, calling on cash from Canberra to help fund the most comprehensive youth detention overhaul in Northern Territory history.
By
NITV Staff Writer

20 Nov 2017 - 1:08 PM  UPDATED 20 Nov 2017 - 1:23 PM

Reactions to the Northern Territory’s royal commission into youth detention have kept on coming since Friday’s release of the inquiry’s final report. For many, this is an opportunity for the federal and territory government to right past wrongs, and really implement the report’s key recommendations.

Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Chief Executive Donna Ah Chee said Indigenous leaders will strive to ensure the recommendations don't sit on a shelf gathering dust like so many that have come before it.

"For too long there have been reports, royal commissions and buck-passing between Commonwealth and state and territory governments," she said.

Likewise, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO) Chief Executive Pat Turner called on Malcolm Turnbull to "put his money where his mouth is".

"You don't set up a royal commission and then walk away from the implementation," she said.

Danila Dilba Health Service Chief Executive Olga Havnen says the Territory has a small capacity to generate its own revenue. She's worried proposed changes to the GST carve-up will strip funding even further.

"If that happens it increases the likelihood that the Northern Territory government on its own will not be able to implement the recommendations," she said.

"So it's really incumbent on the Commonwealth government to commit."

The NT government has accepted a three-month deadline to close Don Dale and the Alice Springs detention facilities and will be seeking answers from the Prime Minister on a cost-sharing arrangement during that time.

Chief Minister Michael Gunner has pledged $50 million towards setting up new youth justice infrastructure and expects the federal government to match it, but no guarantees have been made yet.

"The Commonwealth paid for half the costs of the royal commission, I do think it's reasonable, and there is a public expectation, that the Commonwealth are part of the solution," Mr Gunner said.

The Labor leader said he was negotiating in good faith with federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, who agreed it should be put on the COAG agenda.

"There are lessons out of this royal commission for all parts of this country," Mr Gunner said.

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The inquiry believes nearly $336 million could be saved over a decade if all the recommendations are put in place, while if no action is taken youth detention costs would rise to $113 million a year by 2027.

"Even if your emotions don't tell you it's not a good thing to lock up children, the economists will," co-commissioner Margaret White said.

The royal commission's final report was released on Friday, containing more than 200 recommendations.

They include the closure of Darwin's Don Dale Detention Centre where boys were tear gassed, banning restraint and long isolation stints, and a 10-year generational strategy to address child protection.

‘White NGOs’ told to take a back seat in the NT

Furthermore, 'White NGOs' have been told to step back and let Aboriginal organisations run the Northern Territory's child protection space.

The inquiry's final report pushes for a major paradigm shift favouring community-led solutions to assist kids in care and detention.

"We need to get serious about working with Aboriginal people," co-commissioner Mick Gooda said.

NACCHO’s Chief Executive, Pat Turner, has also urged the Gunner Government to give resources directly to Aboriginal groups, saying white non-government organisations "need to get out of that space".

"Those days are over," she said. "We are much more strategically placed and our service delivery is much wider."

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Labor is expected to unveil an overhaul of the child protection system, enlisting NGOs to run early intervention programs targeting at-risk families before they trigger a formal child welfare investigation.

Mr Gooda said the current model was criminalising kids and if every youngster that met the benchmark for negligence and abuse entered the system it would reach a breaking point.

"It would explode in human terms and it would explode in financial terms," he said.

The government has accepted a recommendation to expand the Children's Commission to include an Aboriginal Co-Commissioner, a move backed by current boss Colleen Gwynne.

"You need to be reflective of your target group," Ms Gwynne said. "It's absolutely a step in the right direction".

Ms Turner said having an Indigenous-centric view at this high level would enhance important monitoring functions, providing a cultural understanding that would encourage people to come forward with complaints.

With AAP

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