The Controversial Don Dale youth detention centre should be closed and children under 14 should no longer be held in extended custody, the final royal Commission report into youth detention in the Northern Territory says.
Established after shocking photos of the young Dylan Voller in a spithood and in a mechanical restraint chair emerged, the royal commission has sat months to investigate the Territory's youth detention system.
Speaking at parliament, Northern territory first minister Michael Gunner said the findings will "live as a stain" on the Northern Territory's reputation.
"For this I am sorry. But more than this, I'm sorry for the stories that live in the children we failed," he said.
"It's sobering this report was borne of the treatment of children in the care of the Northern Territory Government.
"It is the story of our failures to care, protect, and build those who needed building most.
Another recommendation calls on the Northern Territory Government to close the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.
"We recognise some of what we are proposing marks a profound shift from past practice in the NT, but it is necessary as what has been relied upon to date has and continues to simply fail the entire community," commissioners Margaret White and Mick Gooda said in a statement.
The commission's investigation had found "shocking and systemic failures" over many years which were "known and ignored at the highest levels."
Some of the NT Royal Commission's recommendations:
- Closing the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and High Security Unit.
- Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and only allowing children under 14 years to be detained for serious crimes.
- Developing a 10 year Generational Strategy for Families and Children to address child protection and preve ntion of harm to children.
- Establishing a network of Family Support Centres to provide place - based services to families across the Northern Territory.
- A paradigm shift in youth justice to increase diversion and therapeutic approaches.
- Developing a new model of bail and secure detention accommodation.
- Increasing engagement with and involvement of Aboriginal Organisations in child protection, youth justice and detention
"Children and young people were subjected to regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment in detention and there was a failure to follow the procedures and requirements of the law in many instances," the statement said.
The child protection system also failed to provide the support needed to some children in care to help them to avoid pathways likely to lead into the youth justice system, the commission said.
The Northern Territory Government had also failed to comply with the statutory requirements that all children in out of home care have timely care plans.
These things happened on our watch, in our country, to our children.NT royal Commission Commissioners
"The time for tinkering around the edges and ignoring the conclusions of the myriad of inquiries that have already been conducted must come to an end," they said.
Changing the current approach to youth justice and detention as recommended is estimated conservatively to deliver savings of $335.5 million by 2027, the commission said.
Indigenous Affairs minister Nigel Scullion said the federal government will consider the commission's recommendations work will with the Northern Territory government and other stakeholders to inform its response.
"The primary concern is that all children and young people, along with their families, are supported to give children the best start in life and ensure that all Australian children should be safe, healthy and are able to get access to the key to engaging in opportunities, which is a good education," he said.
"While the focus must be on ensuring that children do not enter the child protection and youth detention system is in the first place, the importance of rehabilitation as an approach to addressing the needs of our most vulnerable and complexity children and young people cannot be understated.
"These young people cannot any longer be dismissed as broken. They need as to walk alongside them and listen to their voices, really listen."