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

 Northern Territory Royal Commission final hearings conclude

29 June 2017

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory will conclude its final set of public hearings in Darwin tomorrow.

The Commission’s work will continue, considering evidence gathered in hearings and submissions, ahead of the delivery of the final report by 30 September 2017.

Since August 2016, the Commission has held seven sets of formal public hearings in Darwin and Alice Springs and has:

  • heard from over 210 witnesses including 24 Vulnerable Witnesses,
  • conducted 11 Case Studies with multiple witnesses,
  • heard 16 recorded personal stories; and,
  • received more than 480 witness statements.

In the most recent protection hearings the Commission heard first hand experiences from those most affected by the child protection system including children, their families and carers. So far the Royal Commission has gathered 30 of their recorded personal stories in addition to more than 430 written personal stories.

People have shared stories about the impacts the welfare system has on individuals and the wider community, the role of kinship care and the importance of maintaining cultural connections when children are placed in care.

During the detention hearings the Commission heard evidence from children and young people who had been detained in the Alice Springs and Darwin youth detention facilities.

Current and former youth justice officers presented evidence, as did those responsible for overseeing the detention centres, professionals providing services to those in detention such as case workers and lawyers and from former Ministers with responsibility for youth detention.

Evidence presented to the Commission revealed a youth detention system which is likely to leave children and young people more damaged than when they entered, an observation in the Interim Report of the Royal Commission released on the 31st March 2017.

The Commission heard that detention facilities are not fit for accommodating children and young people, and are also not fit for the purpose of rehabilitation. In addition, they are unsuitable workplaces for youth justice officers and other staff.

Public hearings of the Royal Commission have heard evidence that the youth justice and child protection systems in the Northern Territory are inextricably linked. Multiple experts provided evidence to the Commission showing children and young people in out-of-home care are more likely to enter the youth detention system.

The Royal Commission thanks all witnesses who have appeared, and contributed to the public hearings conducted over the past nine months.

In addition to public hearings, the Commission is collecting information from a number of other sources including through submissions, formal and informal statements, community meetings, one-on-one interviews, site visits and talking to stakeholders and groups.

The information collected will assist the Commission to understand the complex issues and make meaningful recommendations that drive long-lasting change.

There is still time for people to contribute; people can give information, provide submissions and share their personal stories with the Commission until 31 July 2017.

There are a number of ways people can provide information to the Commission.