• According to the ABC, the part of the Don Dale facility on fire is the education centre. (Image: @Shahni_W) (Twitter)
Police end a major disturbance at Darwin's notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, defending the use of tear gas despite being in breach of royal commission recommendations.
7 Nov 2018 - 10:12 AM  UPDATED 7 Nov 2018 - 2:30 PM

All detained teenagers have now been removed from Darwin's notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre following a major disturbance and fire.

The 'escape attempt' by detained youth was thwarted by police using tear gas and with police arresting 12 young people and two taken to hospital for treatment, according to the ABC.

The remaining teenagers are being temporarily housed at the Darwin Police Station, with the Don Dale centre declared a crime scene and temporarily non-operational. 

Earlier this year, the NT government revealed all detained youth in the NT are Indigenous.

Relatives outside the centre told the ABC they were worried the 'kids would be too scared to surrender to the [Territory Response Group] bearing assault rifles'.

At least 15 police cars, including tactical response vehicles, as well as firefighters and ambulances, rushed to the centre about 6.45pm on Tuesday amid reports of a disturbance.

About three hours later flames and thick smoke could be seen billowing from a building believed to be the education centre.

Just after midnight, about 12 detainees were spotted being taken from the centre in police vehicles.

Police say the disturbance began after a teenager took keys from a staff member and began opening cell doors.

Some of the teenagers were able to access power tools and began cutting through a fence with an angle grinder, the ABC reported.

Earlier, some detained youth were seen on a roof.

One staff member is believed to have received an injury to their hand.

NT Police have declined to respond to questions, referring NITV News to Territory Families which has overseen the youth detention centre since taking over from Correctional Services in 2016.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for Territory Families said the centre is "still a retired broken adult prison".

"Territory Families has inherited a retired adult prison which was retired a number of years ago. We have been trying to make do with what we have got," the spokesperson said.

NT Police defended its use of tear gas, despite the royal commission's recommendation that tear gas should be prohibited in youth detention centres.

"The circumstances were that, we will allege, a number of juveniles - youth detainees - had breached an inner perimeter fence. They had then made their way to an outer perimeter fence. They had tools which they were attempting to breach the fence with in what we will allege is an attempt to escape."

The NT Deputy Opposition Leader, Lia Finocchiaro, has called on the Minister for Territory Families Dale Wakefield to resign.

Senior lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre Shahleena Musk said the teenagers "should not holed up in a police cell". 

"These children have been through a lot – they have been locked in isolation, tear gassed, and denied their basic rights. Forcing them to move from one unsafe facility to another is not the answer," she said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the NT government accepted calls to close the centre after a royal commission uncovered disturbing evidence of abuse.

The final report of the $54 million inquiry released last November made 227 recommendations, all of which the government said it would adopt.

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Footage of teenagers being tear-gassed, spit-hooded and shackled to restraint chairs in youth prisons sparked the probe and prompted Labor to inject millions of dollars to overhaul the broken system.

The centre received national attention in 2016 when the ABC aired footage of the abuse of youths, including Aboriginal teen Dylan Voller in a restraint chair wearing a spit hood, prompting the royal commission into juvenile detention in the NT.

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Don Dale has continued to be the subject of negative publicity this year, with four boys accused of starting fires at the centre in July and injuries to prison guards in May.

The NT government has committed $70 million for two new detention centres in Darwin and Alice Springs as part of $229.6 million to be spent over the next five years to overhaul the child protection and youth justice systems, and implement the recommendations of the royal commission.

AAP with NITV Staff Writer

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