Royal Commission into the Protection and
Detention of Children in the Northern Territory

 Community engagement

Wide-ranging engagement with Aboriginal communities was an important priority for the Commission and a critical part of its work. It was essential to understand the overrepresentation of Aboriginal children and young people in detention and out of home care. If policies, legislation and programs are to be effective and sustainable, the people most affected by them should be involved in their development, implementation and evaluation. The Commission discusses the importance of this principle in Chapter 7 (Community engagement) of its report.

Throughout the inquiry, Community Engagement Officers were based in Darwin and Alice Springs and travelled to the following communities across the Northern Territory, as well as several communities in the cross-border region with Western Australia.

Adelaide River Groote Eylandt Stirling
Ali Curung Gunbalanya Tara
Alice Springs Hermannsburg Tennant Creek
Alyangula, Groote Eylandt Imanpa Ti tree
Amoonguna Jabiru Timber Creek
Ampilawatji Kalkarindji Titjikala
Angurugu, Groote Elylandt Katherine Umbakumba, Groote Elyandt
Areyonga Lajamanu Utopia
Arparre Maningrida Wadeye
Barunga Mt Liebig Wurrumiyanga – Tiwi Islands
Beswick Mt Theo Yarralin
Binjari Mutitjulu Yirrkala
Brumby Plain Ngukurr Yuendumu
Bulla Nhulunbuy
Daguragu Nyirripi
Daly River Papunya
Darwin Peppimenarti
Elliott Santa Teresa
Finke Ski Beach

The Community Engagement Officers explained the purpose of the Commission and its processes to communities, children and young people, worked closely with local organisations and heard communities' and individuals' stories and concerns. These stories and concerns were relayed to the Commission. This vital information helped the Commission to understand the complex issues that communities face and informed the Commission's work, including in developing lines of inquiry and many of the recommendations in this report.

Community and stakeholder meetings

The Commission held 13 public meetings with communities in the Northern Territory to hear directly from people affected by the youth detention and child protection systems. The Commission held meetings in:

  • Darwin
  • Tiwi Islands
  • Alice Springs
  • Santa Teresa
  • Maningrida
  • Tennant Creek
  • Katherine
  • Yirrkala
  • Groote Eylandt
  • Yuendumu
  • Mutitjulu

More than 1,000 people attended the community meetings including families, individuals, children, young people, local leaders, service providers, community organisations, carers, school principals, teachers, current and former youth detention centre workers, health professionals and police officers.

At youth forums in Darwin and Alice Springs, the Commission heard about children and young people's experiences of out of home care and detention.

The Commission also attended meetings with the Northern Land Council and Central Land Council.

Roundtables and targeted meetings

The Commission considered it vital to hear from a wide range of people involved in the youth detention and child protection systems and held 13 roundtables and targeted meetings including with:

  • current and former youth detention centre workers in Darwin and Alice Springs
  • current members of Northern Territory Police in Darwin and Alice Springs
  • members of the Northern Territory judiciary, including the Chief Justice of the Northern Territory and Chief Judge of the Local Court
  • individual victims of crime, and victims of crime groups such as Victims of Crime NT
  • residential care workers in Alice Springs and Darwin
  • foster carers in Alice Springs and Darwin, and
  • Territory Families caseworkers.

The Commission held an expert roundtable in Alice Springs on 24 February 2017 to discuss diversion of children and young people from the youth justice process and alternative approaches to detention. Experts included academics, researchers, providers of diversion programs, representatives of other programs, community organisations, police officers from the Northern Territory and other states and territories and representatives of the Northern Territory Government.

Further details about some of these roundtables and meetings are in the Commission's Interim Report.