POLITICS

Malcolm Turnbull Names Brian Ross Martin As Royal Commissioner For NT Abuse Inquiry

He is a former Chief Justice of the Northern Territory.

28/07/2016 4:51 PM AEST | Updated 28/07/2016 5:06 PM AEST
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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Brian Ross Martin as Royal Commissioner of the Royal Commission into child protection and youth detention in the Northern Territory at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 28 July 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares

A Royal Commission to examine failings in the child protection and youth detention systems administered by the Government of the Northern Territory is expected to get under way in October, the man charged with overseeing the inquiry says.

Former Northern territory Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Ross Martin, AO, has been chosen to head the inquiry following cabinet's first meeting following the Federal election on Thursday.

Whether racism played a part in the treatment of children at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre will form a part of the inquiry, Martin said. He hopes the commission will commence hearings in October.

"Whether racism does or doesn't play a role will be part of the inquiry. This is about child protection systems, it is about the culture," Martin told reporters on Thursday.

"Naturally, if people believe that racism plays a role, then that will be a subject of evidence before the Royal Commission.

"It is not appropriate at this time to make any predictions about what does or doesn't play a role within the system in the Northern Territory."

Australians were confronted by harrowing footage of children being gassed, stripped, hooded and tied to restraint chairs in the NT's Don Dale Youth Correction Centre on Monday night.

The commission's terms of reference were drawn up in consultation with the NT government amid ongoing commentary that the NT government not be involved in setting up the inquiry.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was asked what assurance he could give that the commission wasn't compromised.

"This Commissioner is completely independent," he said.

"Mr Martin... served as the Chief Justice of the Northern Territory with great distinction and developed and demonstrated a very keen understanding of Indigenous culture, indeed, and the interaction between the Indigenous culture and our legal system."

Martin also served as a Justice on the Supreme Courts of Western Australia and South Australia, and was also the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Commonwealth.

The commission will go back as far as 2006, when the Northern Territory's Youth Justice Act was first introduced.

The commissioner has also been asked to examine the treatment of children and young persons detained at all youth detention facilities administered by the Northern Territory Government, including the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

He has also been asked to to consider whether the treatment of the youths breached Commonwealth or NT law, duty of care, or if it breached human rights obligations adopted by Australia or the Northern Territory.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced Brian Ross Martin as Royal Commissioner of the Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory at Parliament House in Canberra on Thursday 28 July 2016. Photo: Andrew Meares

Attorney-General George Brandis said the terms of reference were developed in consultation with the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles.

"These terms of reference... make the scope of the royal commission comprehensive enough to get to the bottom of the problems without being so vague and amorphous that it would go on forever and not come up with particular and specific solutions to real problems," Brandis said.

Earlier, prominent Northern Territory barrister John Lawrence told the ABC there is a huge amount of anger in the local community, and the Federal Government must ensure the Territory Government is not involved in the Royal Commission process.

That position has been backed by Australian Bar Association president Patrick O'Sullivan.

Lawrence said the Royal Commission should be organised from outside the Northern Territory and headed up by "the best", a retired High Court judge, "fully armed with an interstate QC and all the resources that are required".

"I've been representing Aboriginal people for many years and I've spoken to them this week and I've never seen so much anger and if this royal commission is in any way associated with the Northern Territory Government, they have told me that they will not cooperate with it, will not be involved within it, they will not have anything to do with it," he told ABC News 24.

"It will merely be another chair sent up by the PM Turnbull who will be showing his true colours if he goes that road."

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