Australia’s national body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglicans has welcomed the establishment of a Royal Commission to investigate abuse in a Northern Territory youth detention centre.
The abuse of children at the Don Dale Detention Centre was revealed in a report by the ABC Television’s Four Corners investigative journalism programme. Within the Northern Territories, 97 per cent of young people held in detention are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island backgrounds; despite these communities comprising only 17 per cent of the total population in the Territory.
“This is an appalling statistic, and this hugely disproportionate incarceration rate must be addressed as part of the Royal Commission, these children would not have been abused as we saw in those images if they had not been in custody,” the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Anglican Council (NATSIAC) said in a statement.
“For this reason, NATSIAC also resolutely condemns mandatory sentencing, and calls on government, rather than forcing our children into detention facilities, to instead spend the money wasted on locking kids up on providing diversion programs, and family support programs to help prevent our children ever getting to the prison system.”
In their statement, NATSIAC pointed to the “growing body of evidence which points to this kind of abuse not being isolated to juvenile detention centres within the Northern Territory” and called on the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to “broaden the scope of the Royal Commission to include all juvenile detention facilities Australia wide.”
Their comments follow those of the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australian Primate Philip Freier, earlier this month. Archbishop Freier said that “research from . . . reveals that children who are placed in detention are three times more likely to return to detention within twelve months of being released.
“Aboriginal Anglicans have told me how important it is for crime prevention and rehabilitation programs to be developed in consultation with Aboriginal people, and also urge the end of mandatory sentencing in the Territory.”