Royal Commission into the Protection & Detention of Children in the NT: First Progress Report

The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT Final Report was handed down one year ago.

The Territory Labor Government accepted the intent and direction of all 227 recommendations, and in April this year announced a historic $229 million investment over five years to overhaul the child protection and youth justice systems, and implement the recommendations. The Federal Government is yet to allocate one additional dollar to implement the recommendations.

This investment coincided with the release of the implementation plan Safe, Thriving & Connected: Generational Change for Children and Families.

Today, the Territory Labor Government released the first progress report outlining substantial progress seven months into the reform journey.

Of the 218 recommendations that relate to action by the Government, 33 are now complete, 47 are well progressed, 122 are underway, and 16 not yet started.

Key achievements include:

Legislative reform to amend the Youth Justice Act to give Territory Families legal responsibility for youth justice and improve the wellbeing of young people in detention by prohibiting the use of restraints and limiting the use of force, isolation and strip searches for young people in detention
Completion of $10.48 million significant fix and make safe works at Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention Centres, including new and separate education and female accommodation facilities at the Alice Springs Centre
Design tender released for the development of new, purpose-built youth justice centres in Darwin and Alice Springs
Increased participation and improved partnerships with Aboriginal organisations and families to increase local decision-making and Aboriginal involvement in the child protection and youth justice systems
Reforming and streamlining the child protection processes. This includes the One Child One Case approach for frontline child protection staff, which will increase efficiency so that they can spend more time with vulnerable children and their families. Central Intake Services has also been redesigned to better manage the high demand of notifications and provide a more timely service to the community
Construction of the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre is underway the first of 11 new centres to be built across the Northern Territory over the next five years
Development of a multi-agency Crossover Family Working Group to increase information-sharing and co-ordination of service response provided to young people and their families in the child protection and youth justice systems
Additional funding of $2.5 million to increase the independent Office of the Childrens Commissioners capacity to monitor and audit the child protection and youth justice systems

The next major milestones will be delivered by 30 June next year. They include:

Open the Tennant Creek Child and Family Centre
Launch and implement the Signs of Safety practice framework in the NT
Renovate the Alice Springs Local Court to include a multi-purpose court for matters relating to children and young people
Finalise the design tender for development of the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre
Establish two more Child and Family Centres
Release and begin implementation of the Aboriginal Out-of-Home Care strategy
Commence Aboriginal foster and kinship carer programs
Draft and introduce the next round of priority legislative amendments
Commence the Community Youth Support Grants program and expand access to youth diversion
Finalise three more Local Decision-Making agreements
Continue improvements in youth detention operations, practice and staff training

The Progress Report along with an overview document, and a table outlining the 33 completed recommendations is available at: https://rmo.nt.gov.au/

As stated by Minister for Territory Families, Dale Wakefield

We made an election promise to get young people back on the right path and away from a life of crime, and that is what we are doing. We want Territory kids that get into trouble to become better people, not better criminals.

The Royal Commission recommendations and the Territory Labor Governments reform plans have resulted in the most comprehensive overhaul of the child protection and youth justice systems in NT history. This stands in stark contrast to the chaotic former CLP Government who cut funding to youth justice and had no plans.

To create generational change, we have been coordinating a Whole-of-Government response in partnership with Aboriginal organisations, non-government organisations, and the wider community.

We have made substantial progress, but there is more to be done and the Federal Government needs to come to the table and help fund solutions, not just identify the problems. If they are genuine about improving the protection and detention of children they need to help fund the solutions.

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