Former Northern Territory chief justice Brian Martin will conduct the royal commission into the child protection and youth detention in the Northern Territory, in the wake of Monday night’s 4 Corners expose on alleged abuse of juveniles at the Don Dale centre.
Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a royal commission within 12 hours of the shocking footage going to air and this afternoon announced its terms of reference with attorney-general George Brandis, who said it will look at the “failings in the child protection and youth detention systems administered by the government of the Northern Territory” and whether the actions of prison officials were in breach of human rights.
Two 2015 reports prepared for the Giles government that went largely unheeded will be a crucial part of the focus, senator Brandis said.
Commissioner Martin said he will look at “questions about the culture in the system” and “whether racism does or doesn’t play a role will be a part of the inquiry.”
Despite calls to exclude the Northern Territory government from the inquiry, it will be involved.
The prime minister said the royal commission has been asked to examine:
• failings in the child protection and youth detention systems of the Government of the Northern Territory;
• the effectiveness of any oversight mechanisms and safeguards to ensure the treatment of detainees was appropriate;
• cultural and management issues that may exist within the Northern Territory youth detention system;
• whether the treatment of detainees breached laws or the detainees’ human rights; and
• whether more should have been done by the Government of the Northern Territory to take appropriate measures to prevent the re-occurrence of inappropriate treatment.
The royal commission is expected to begin in September and is due to report by 31 March, 2017.
Turnbull said the inquiry will not take in other states because he wants it to be swift, but will like deliver findings that will apply in other jurisdictions and the way juvenile detention systems function.
Pressed by reporters, the PM said the possibility of compensation was up to the commissioner.
“He is in a position to make recommendations of that kind,” he said.
Justice Martin spent six years as chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory and was senior counsel assisting the 1990 royal commission into what was known as WA Inc, which led to the jailing of former premier Brian Burke.
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