An incident at Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre this week is further evidence that new youth detention facilities must be fast-tracked in the Northern Territory, says Jesuit Social Services.
The call follows an incident at the Don Dale Centre on Tuesday, which saw inmates set fire to parts of the facility. The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory last year recommended new youth detention facilities be built.
“In its final report last year, the royal commission found that facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs are not fit for purpose and not conducive to helping young people get their lives back on track,” Jesuit Social Services chief Julie Edwards said.
“Detaining young people in facilities like this is failing them, their families and the broader Territory community. We call on the Northern Territory Government to fast track the closure of Don Dale and the construction of the new facility, which is not expected to be open until mid-2020, as well as the new Alice Springs facility.
“If we allow our children and young people to spend another 18 months in a facility as unsuitable as Don Dale, we run the risk of more incidents like the one we saw [on Tuesday] and leaving young people to exit the detention system worse off than when they entered,” Ms Edwards said.
One of the key recommendations of the royal commission was to close the Don Dale and Alice Springs facilities and replace them with fit for purpose facilities focused on education and rehabilitation. In February, the NT Government announced it would replace Don Dale with a new centre in Darwin that would accommodate 30 young people in small, home-like facilities.
Ms Edwards said this model was in line with international best practice in youth detention.
“We have previously commended the NT Government on their commitment to reform of the territory’s youth justice system – now, they must fast-track the new Darwin facility as a priority.
“This is more than bricks and mortar. We must make sure our young people are engaged in meaningful activities and skill development, are housed in age-appropriate and suitable facilities close to family and community and have better opportunities to get their lives back on track.”
New Darwin youth justice facility must be fast tracked (Jesuit Social Services)