The damage bill from incidents at youth detention facilities in the Northern Territory has risen to more than $1 million since July.
- Total damage bill is $1.27 million since July
- November riot at Don Dale cost $750,000
- Legal cases underway over treatment of detainees
The bulk of the $1.27 million repair costs relate to a riot at Darwin’s Don Dale detention centre earlier this month, when an education facility was destroyed by fire and other infrastructure was damaged during an eight-hour rampage costing taxpayers at least $750,000.
“The costs are significant to the facility,” Territory Families Minister Dale Wakefield said.
“While we would prefer to be spending that money on preventing crime we need to make sure that we are providing staff with a facility that is safe for staff and provides community safety for the public.”
The damage bill from disturbances was disclosed following questions on notice from the Northern Territory Opposition, which called on the Government to change the way it manages youth detention facilities after police had to be called to six incidents since July — including two escapes in Alice Springs.
“The answer to our questions really justify our call that Youth Justice goes back to Corrections with support provided by Territory Families,” Deputy Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro said.
When asked if Corrections staff trained in youth justice issues could be used in juvenile detention centres, the Minister said it was not under current consideration.
“I have no plans in front of me to use Correctional staff at this stage however it does not mean in the future we wouldn’t consider that as a possibility,” Ms Wakefield said.
Legal action considered
The new figures come as the Minister revealed that lawyers for a Don Dale detainee are considering legal action after their client suffered a broken arm while being escorted to a shower facility by youth justice officers last Thursday night.
“I know that the legal advocates of the child are putting in further claims around that,” Ms Wakefield said.
“We have asked the Children’s Commissioner to investigate that as an independent body.”
In a statement, Territory Families confirmed the teenager suffered the fracture after their arm became wedged in a door.
The department said the teenager was being abusive towards other detainees and assaulted two staff members.
“The youth justice officers moved the young person into a room with shower facilities to de-escalate the situation,” the department said.
“As the door was being closed the young person put their arm into the door where it was caught, resulting in a fracture to the arm.”
The detainee was treated in hospital before being returned to the detention facility on the same night.
Class action set for court in 2019
The potential new legal action on behalf of the injured teenager is separate to a class action brought by the Legal Aid Commission against the Northern Territory Government on behalf of two other Don Dale detainees.
That case focuses on allegations detainees in Darwin and Alice Springs are continuing to suffer human rights abuses and racial discrimination despite changes made since the Royal Commission handed down its damning findings last November.
The Government denied the majority of the allegations, which will be tested in court when the matter is expected to go to trial next May.
The Human Rights Law Centre is not party to those cases but the senior lawyer in its Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Rights Unit said the ongoing issues at the detention centres are concerning.
“The incidents that are occurring are clearly reiterating the inadequacy and inappropriateness of these facilities for children,” Shahleena Musk said.
“I am concerned that a lot of children are not getting the appropriate treatment and support in the detention centre.
“There doesn’t appear to be an effective case management system operating in the facilities.
“There doesn’t appear to be therapeutic programs happening or run by the department out there.”