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Own initiative investigation report : services provided by the Department of Correctional Services at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre



Own initiative investigation report : services provided by the Department of Correctional Services at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre

Other title

Report to the Minister


E-Publications; PublicationNT; E-Books




Made available via the Publications (Legal Deposit) Act 2004 (NT).; The decision to conduct this self-initiated investigation was made by the former Children’s Commissioner, Dr Howard Bath, and was based on events that occurred at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre (‘Don Dale’) in the Behaviour Management Unit (‘BMU’) between 4 and 21 August 2014. This investigation was conducted in accordance with Section 10(1)(a)(ii) of the Children’s Commissioner Act 2013 (the Act) which allows the Commissioner, on his own initiative, to investigate a matter which may form the grounds for a complaint.


"Dear Minister. In accordance with section 43(2) of the Children's Commissioner Act 2013, I provide you with my final own initiative investigation based on events that occurred at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Behavius Management Unit between 4 and 21 August 2014'. p. 1.

Table of contents

Jurisdiction -- Formalities -- Background to investigation -- Process of investigation -- Investigation issues: issue 1; The decisions made and actions taken by Correctional Service staff at Don Dale in relation to young persons confined within the BMU on 21 August 2014 -- Issue 1 Findings -- Issue 2: The period of time young persons were confined within the BMU and the purpose of this procedure -- Issue 2 Findings -- Issue 3: The access young persons have had in regard to making a complaint to the Children’s Commissioner -- Issue 3 Findings -- Issue 4: The access young persons had to external service providers when confined within the BMU -- Issue 4 Findings -- Issue 5: The provisions in place to ensure the emotional and psychological welfare of young persons in the BMU -- Issue 5 Findings -- Issue 6: The contact young persons housed within the BMU have had with family members -- Issue 6 Findings -- Issue 7: The supervision and monitoring provided to the young persons whilst they were accommodated within the BMU -- Issue 7 Findings -- Recommendations -- Departmental response. -- Attachment A & B




Juvenile detention homes -- Northern Territory -- Darwin Region; Juvenile delinquents -- Rehabilitation -- Northern Territory

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Northern Territory. Office of the Children's Commissioner

Place of publication

Casuarina (N.T.)


52 pages : illustrations, plans ; 30 cm.

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P a g e | 29 The Vita review identified a lack of appropriate training and development from the date of first employment. In particular, some staff did not know when to use force, how to use it and what equipment was available. Vita also stated that negotiation and mediation should be the ultimate aim of any confrontation, and ideally, the use of force should be the last option. Issue 1: Findings Prior to the incident escalating and E exiting his cell, no attempts were made to deescalate the situation, apart from threatening to impose further restrictions on the young persons who had already been subjected to prolonged periods of isolation in their cells. The failure to lock the cell door ultimately provided the opportunity for a young person to exit his cell and access potential weapons with which to threaten staff and damage property. The audio captured by the Handicam shows no meaningful attempt by staff to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the incident. None of the staff interviewed described any attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution. No IOMS report submitted by staff describes any attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution. The YJO staff were not trained in negotiation skills. The apparent attempt by E to surrender to YJO staff in the storeroom may have resulted in the incident being concluded peacefully without the need resort to the use of force, if staff were able to identify it as a negotiation opportunity. It was not recognised by staff as such, and it was refused. It was also not communicated to the A/GM as the YJOs were simply not equipped to deal with such matters in the circumstances as they occurred on the night. The use of CS gas was prefaced with a proclamation given in circumstances that did not allow the young persons the opportunity to respond by way of compliance. There was a portable communications radio in the possession of at least one of the young persons, and this could have been utilised as a communication tool between Correctional Services staff and the young persons. The issue of poor training and practice around crisis intervention was raised by Dr Bath in 2012. In April 2012, surveillance tapes depicting the inappropriate and unsafe use of restraint were shown to senior staff of the Department of Justice (which incorporated Correctional Services) (DOJ) and undertakings were provided that such practices would cease. In December 2012, the Office of the Childrens Commissioner sent DOJ formal recommendations regarding the review and suggested implementation of safe intervention techniques. It appears that the recommendations were not implemented at that time, nor in the subsequent 18 months.

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