Australia has been put into a state of shock by last night’s ‘4 Corners’ report on ABC, which showed us the horrendous torture and illegal treatment of young men in juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory.
Footage in the report showed boys as young as thirteen being forcefully shackled while in obvious pain, tear gassed repeatedly inside their locked cells, being verbally abused, put into disgusting and unhygienic rooms for solitary confinement and being routinely denied basic necessities.
In footage shown by the ABC, guards and staff at the facility can clearly be heard encouraging each other to gas the teens, repeatedly calling one “an idiot” and a “little fucker”. One officer is heard in the footage saying he’ll “pulverise” the boy.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this morning announced there will be a Royal Commission into the horrific abuse at NT juvenile detention centres, saying,
“Like all Australians, we are shocked by the report, by that evidence on Four Corners lay night. We have moved swiftly to get to the bottom of it.
We need to get all the facts out as quickly as we can. We need to expose the cultural problems, the administrative problems.”
Now, John Elferink, who is responsible for the detention of the young boys, has been fired from his role of Corrections Minister by NT Chief Minister Adam Giles.
Giles gave a press conference this afternoon, saying,
“Can I start by saying that anybody who saw that footage on television last night on ‘4 Corners’ would undoubtedly describe it as horrific footage.
I sat and watched the footage and recognised horror through my eyes.”
He said that the footage on ‘4 Corners‘ had been withheld from himself and many officials in government, so he first saw the footage at the same time as everyone else in Australia.
“I think there’s been a culture of cover-up going on for many a long year. The footage we saw last night [went] back to 2010 — and I predict this has gone on for a very long time.”
What we’re changing is a culture of an organisation within the youth detention system and I think we’ve come a long way in that time. That’s not to discredit any of that terrible footage we saw on Four Corners last night. It was terrible footage but we’re seeking to improve the system.”
Acting Commissioner of Corrections Mark Payne told press that some of the correctional officers implicated in the footage were still working with NT Corrections.
“A number of the staff, particularly those who have become the subject of previous investigations, a number of those staff members are no longer with us in the organisation. They’ve either been terminated in their employment or have chosen to resign.
A number of staff members who may have been implicated to sustain charges, criminal or internal, remain with us.
There were only two staff members identified in footage last night that still remain within the youth justice sphere.”
According to the ABC, one journalist asked Giles if he was personally okay with children being strapped into restraint chairs, and he wouldn’t answer the question definitively:
“We’re going to have a look at that as part of the royal commission. We will have a review into that. I can’t talk about individual cases.
Prison officers need the ability to be able to de-escalate issues when children are not in … a calm environment within themselves and at all times those kids’ wellbeing is being put at the best possible place.
Having said that, there is certainly footage last night, particularly the footage dating back to 2010, 2012 and 2014 where I don’t think the standards have been upheld.”
Giles confirmed that he had now taken over the Corrections and Justice portfolio, and that Elferink would retain the Health, Children and Families and Mental Health portfolios.
We will update you with all further information as it arises.
Photo: Facebook / John Elferink.