The Northern Territory Royal Commission was launched into the Northern Territory youth justice and child protection systems after a Four Corners episode.


The NT Royal Commission on the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory handed down its report on 17 November, 2017. It found the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre 'failed to comply with basic binding human rights standards in its treatment of children'.

In the report, Commissioners Margaret White and Mick Gooda highlight that, as a society, we are failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people long before they enter the detention system. The Benevolent Society supports the calls being made by Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory and their national representative bodies for a new approach to the child protection and youth justice system.

 young man and older man

Wherever we are in the country, we want systems that prioritise a child’s wellbeing first, including policies and programs that nurture healthy childhood development. This cannot be achieved without working in partnership with Aboriginal organisations to invest in the health of whole communities. The Benevolent Society therefore stands with the Aboriginal organisations that are calling on our political leaders to take immediate steps to implement the Northern Territory Royal Commission’s recommendations in partnership with Aboriginal organisations in the Northern Territory.

The Royal Commission found that over ten years, some children in detention were mistreated, verbally abused, humiliated, isolated or left alone for long periods of time.

The Royal Commission recommended:

  • Closing the current Don Dale Youth Detention Centre and High Security Unit
  • Raising the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and only detaining children under 14 years if they have committed serious crimes
  • Developing a ten-year Generational Strategy for Families and Children to assist families early on and prevent harm to children
  • Increasing engagement with and the involvement of Aboriginal organisations in child protection, youth justice and detention
  • Establishing a network of at least 20 Family Support Centres across the Northern Territory to provide services, information and support where they are most needed. 

According to the Royal Commission, the Northern Territory Government would save over $330 million in the next decade if it implemented their recommendations.

Additional Resources:

Statements made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in response to the report: