Abuse & Solitary Confinement Uncovered in Australia’s Youth Facilities

An Australia news program released footage in late July 2016 revealing the use of solitary confinement and abuse on predominantly aboriginal children in juvenile facilities in the Northern Territories, particularly the Don Dale Detention Facility. Read more from the Washington Post. Amnesty International confirms documentation of these abusive practices, stating:

“The sound of guards laughing while children choke on teargas, should be ingrained on the minds of Australia’s leaders, who for years have ignored calls for better protection of children’s human rights in detention facilities in Northern Territory and across the country.”

Racial and Ethnic Disparities

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced an investigation into the treatment of the children in the facilities in the Northern Territories. A Royal Commission into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory was formed to investigate the abuses. As part of the investigation, a former guard at the Don Dale facility testified in May 2017 that children at risk of self-harm were put in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day in unpadded cells. Australian news outlets report that testimony before the Commission showed that up to 95% of youth were Indigenous, “yet there was extremely limited cultural competence training for the mostly white guards, and the elders visiting program rarely occurred.”

Safe, Thriving, and Connected Plan

In April 2018, the Royal Commission released a 5-year $229.6 million plan for reinvest in major overhauls to the child protection and youth justice systems in the Northern Territory. The plan, entitled Safe, Thriving, and Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families includes a focus on a major role for Aboriginal communities in the design and delivery of youth justice services.