31 Jul 2016

Treatment of detained children prompts protests

1:12 pm on 31 July 2016

Protesters have rallied in cities across Australia to criticise the government's response to alleged abuse at a juvenile detention centre in the Northern Territory.

A basic toilet and plastic chair inside a cell in the isolation wing of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

A basic toilet and plastic chair inside a cell in the isolation wing of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Photo: ABC / Four Corners

A report by an ABC programme on abuse at a Northern Territory facility appeared to show a number of boys being assaulted and mistreated.

Many of those detained are Aboriginal children, leading some protesters to claim the youth detention system is racist.

Speaking at a rally in Sydney, activist Jenny Munro said the government's reaction so far had not been credible.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a royal commission into the Don Dale juvenile detention system in the Northern Territory.

But many people have said its scope should be widened.

University of New South Wales Professor of Criminology Eileen Baldry said mistreatment of children was systemic in every jurisdiction.

"It's in Northern Queensland, Victoria, we know Western Australia, we know that virtually every other jurisdiction has instances of abuse of children in detention, in out-of-home care, in a range of places," she said.

"I really think that we need a completely different approach to this and a royal commission might be helpful to uncover things, but it's not going to be the solution."

A still from the ABC Four Corners investigative report.

A still from the ABC Four Corners investigative report. Photo: ABC

Abuse also rife in Queensland - former youth worker

Meanwhile, new claims of brutality have emerged from a juvenile detention centre in north Queensland.

Shayleen Solomon worked at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre for almost six years from 2009. She told ABC that physical and emotional abuse was rife in the Townsville centre.

She described an incident in 2012 in which she alleges a 15-year-old boy was involved in a physical altercation with a group of male staff.

Ms Solomon said she was returning the boy to his room when he yelled out at the group of men.

"[He was saying] 'I'll have a go at you', stuff like that. So they came out and absolutely trashed this boy," she said.

"There were 15 fully grown men on top of this child. They had him in a sort of crucifix position trying to bend his arms back behind his body to put handcuffs on him.

"The young boy was head butting the ground because he was face down. He had blood coming out of his forehead. There was no room to move.

"I was the worker that went down and put my hands underneath his head to stop him hurting himself more. And he was pleading with them to stop and everything, but they didn't."

- ABC

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