State Government-run Institutions

The Northern Territory Government established reformatory schools and detention centres to provide institutional care and confinement for young people deemed to be in the need of ‘correction’. The Child Welfare Department were responsible for the management of these government-run institutions.

Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre

In 1991, the Northern Territory Government established and opened Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre, situated at 90 Tivendale Road, Berrimah, NT. In 2014 Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre relocated from its original site, the former premises of Malak House, to the adjacent property of the former Berrmiah Gaol (30 Tivendale Road, Berrimah NT).

Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre (previously known as Don Dale Youth Detention Facility) operates as the first ever State-run institution for young offenders in the Northern Territory. Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre replaced Malak House and took in young offenders from all over the Northern Territory. It provides secure accommodation for up to 25 boys and girls, aged between 10 and 16 or 17.

Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre continues to operate presently.

History of Abuse at Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre

In February 2000, a death in custody occurred at the Don Dale Detention Centre. The case involved a 15 year old boy from Groote Eylandt who had been sentenced under the Northern Territory’s mandatory sentencing laws for stealing felt tipped colouring pens. A Coronial Inquiry into the circumstances of the death resulted in a number of recommendations being made related to training of staff and management practices in the Centre.

The Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner conducted an ‘own initiative investigation’ into incidents occurring at Don Dale Detention Centre in August 2014, which included the use of tear gas and restraints on young people, and released its report in August 2015. Essentially, six boys were in solitary confinement cells in the Behavioural Management Unit at Don Dale Detention Centre. One boy walked out of an unlocked cell and beat on a locked reinforced door. The staff declared that there was a “riot”, and released tear gas into the hallway, gassing all six boys. The Court found that the use of the tear gas was unwarranted, and awarded almost $1,000,000 in damages, providing:

The conditions which gave rise to this unlawful use of force perpetrated on youths in a detention centre for whose safety and wellbeing the defendant was responsible must never be allowed to happen again…

The Human Rights Law Centre subsequently made a request for urgent action on the treatment of young people at Don Dale Detention Centre to the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva.

In July 2016, following an investigation by the television program Four Corners, the Australian Prime Minister announced a Royal Commission to inquire into the mistreatment of children and young people in juvenile detention at Don Dale Detention Centre and other facilities in the Northern Territory. The Commission recommended that Don Dale Detention Centre be closed down and that youth detention facilities should not be located close to adult prisons. However, Don Dale Detention Centre remains open and operating.

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today.

Further Abuse Law information written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.

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