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

 Commissioners hear from Alice Springs community

It's important for the Royal Commission to understand different approaches to youth justice and care and protection across the Northern Territory and this week the focus has been in Alice Springs.

Commissioners Margaret White AO and Mick Gooda visited the Alice Springs based Bushmob and were shown around the facilities by founding CEO Will MacGregor and program participant Zac.

Commissioner Margaret White AO speaking with Bushmob founding CEO Will MacGregor
Commissioner Margaret White AO speaking with Bushmob founding CEO Will MacGregor.

The Commissioners heard the purpose of the program was to support young people in a therapeutic environment to make positive life choices.

Will said participants were encouraged to make the most of the 16-week program but their active participation was their own choice. 

"These gates are not for keeping people from getting out, they are for stopping other people from getting in," Will told the Commissioners.

Over the past 18 years Will said the service had helped thousands of kids with complex needs, including drug and alcohol use.

Commissioner Mick Gooda being shown around Bushmob by program participant Zac.
Commissioner Mick Gooda being shown around Bushmob by program participant Zac.

On the visit, the Commissioners were shown the media area where they were impressed by the animations the young people had created as one of the key activities of the program.

They were also shown the shed where there is gym equipment and an old car that is being done up by program participants.

The Commissioners visited the Yipirinya School which caters solely for Indigenous students and offers bilingual and bicultural education. 

Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White AO hearing from Yipirinya School Principal Lorraine Sliger.
Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White AO hearing from Yipirinya School Principal Lorraine Sliger.

School Principal Lorraine Sliger showed the Commissioners around the school including Indigenous language classes in action and heard about the school's curriculum and engagement focused techniques to teaching.

Commissioners in a class room at Yipirinya School.
Commissioners in a classroom at Yipirinya School.

Yipirinya School was founded by the Indigenous Elders of the Town Camps of Alice Springs. The school caters for children from pre-school through to Year 10.

In both Darwin and Alice Springs, the Commissioners spoke directly to youth justice officers, corrections staff and health workers.

The staff told the Commissioners about training, procedures and policies and issues with their workplace environments that made it difficult for them to undertake their roles. 

Today in Alice Springs, 30 participants including researchers, community program leads, the Northern Territory Government, support services and youth workers were brought together in a forum to discuss alternative approaches to detention.

Delegates discussing alternatives to detention in a forum at Alice Springs
Alternatives to detention forum in Alice Springs.

The Commission heard from people around the country at the forum about both the successful models of diversion and alternatives to detention and some of the challenges faced when dealing with youth.

These issues included funding and resourcing constraints.

The successful models included community participation at all levels.

Participants at the forum put forward suggestions on future models and some practical-based solutions for the Commission to consider. 

Participants of the alternatives to detention forum in Alice Springs in discussion
Participants of the alternatives to detention forum in Alice Springs.