Doctors welcome Royal Commission findings into Northern Territory youth detention

Physicians from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) congratulate the heads of the Royal Commission on their thorough examination of conditions in youth detention in the Northern Territory.

RACP President Dr Catherine Yelland said jurisdictions must work together to ensure there is a strong and sustained commitment to working with Indigenous communities to implement the Royal Commission's recommendations.

“Throughout the Royal Commission’s investigations, we have heard many heartbreaking stories of
cruel and inhumane acts of abuse. We know that these acts did not occur in isolation in the Territory's juvenile justice facilities but happened across Australia more generally,” Dr Yelland said.

“We strongly believe other State and Territory governments through the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) must now work together and ensure the Royal Commission’s recommendations are acted on to improve the country’s approach to juvenile justice. 

“We also believe that working in close partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representative bodies, will be crucial to successfully implementing the Commission’s recommendations.”

Dr Robert Tait, an RACP Fellow and specialist paediatrician at Royal Darwin Hospital, said there
was still plenty of work to do in responding to victims of historical abuse and improving health
outcomes for young people in the current system.

“The evidence shows childhood and adolescence experiences influence our life ‘trajectory’ and can result in adverse health, educational and vocational outcomes into adult life, with increased subsequent mortality and morbidity,” Dr Tait explains. “This path can lead to inequity that is passed from one generation to the next.

“We ask that the Territory Government take an open and honest look at why Indigenous juveniles  continue to be over-represented in detention and if its approach to juvenile justice gives young  offenders an opportunity to rehabilitate and develop healthy behaviours for life.

“The Territory Government must consider a greater investment in paediatric services with a stronger focus on preventative strategies. This should include a tiered approach using culturally appropriate youth workers, mental health nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists, to help deliver the best possible care for young people.”

Media contact:  Melissah Bell     0415 111 503
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