“We are the Originals of Australia!” Amelia Turner speaks after 4corners report

It has been a year since the 4corners report Australia’s Shame was aired detailing the abuse kids suffer in Australian prisons. Gunner and the Labour Party was elected into office saying DonDale would close. It hasn’t. Here are words from Amelia Turner at the rally that happened the day after the 4corners report.  https://soundcloud.com/user-872383450/amelia-turner-speaks-in-mparntwe-the-day-after-australia-shame-4-corners

Join us at the end of September for a Global and National Action to Shut Youth Prisons and End Deaths in Custody. https://www.facebook.com/events/263382127474858/

Media Release: Shut Down Your CBD to Shut Youth Prisons and End Deaths in Custody

Shut Down Your CBD to Shut Youth Prisons and End Deaths in Custody
31st July 2017

First nations people and non-Indigenous people from around Australia have called for an International Week of Action at the end of September to shut youth prisons and end deaths in custody. Watch the call out video on facebook here or youtube here

The end of September marks the handing down of recommendations by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. The end of September also marks the anniversary of Wayne Fella Morrison’s death in custody and the death of John Pat in Roebourne in 1983.

“For our people who have passed away in custody we need to fight, we need to stand up and we need to raise our voice because we have the privilege of still having one” said Latoya Rule, Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)

“I’d love to come over and lead the way to shut down the Sydney Harbour Bridge just like we want youth justice prisons shut… whoever wants to join us can shut down whatever they want to shut down, small towns to big cities.” said Dylan Voller, youth justice advocate.

“What I call for is action lines! They’re our children. We gave birth to them.” said Rosalie Kunoth-Monks OAM, Alyawarr/ Anmatyerr Elder

There has been over 355* deaths in custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody released its report in 1991 and the government has failed to implement its recommendations. There are concerns that the Royal Commission into Youth Detention and Child Protection in the NT’s report will be similarly shelved.

The video features over a dozen spokespeople from around the country including Wayne Fella Morrison’s family, Dylan Voller, Debbie Kilroy (Sisters Inside Director), and Rosalie Kunoth-Monks.

The demands of the action are to shut youth prisons, to end deaths in custody, to bring them home, to make surveillance footage available at all inquests on demand, and to ban the use of spithoods and restraints nationally. It calls on all Australians to work together to build a future without prisons.

“It is time we stop children being traumatised in juvenile detention centres” said Vickie Roach, Yuin Woman

“The alternatives to prison is to take young people out to the homelands, and we are here to offer our homeland as one of those first alternatives” said Pamela Lynch, Arrernte Traditional Owner for BlackTank Homeland.

“There are great programs being run now by blackfellas around Australia in regards to healing” said Bubbly, Gamilaraay Man.

“We should all stand together and do it for the same cause, because our youth do matter, and our youth are the future” said Dylan Voller, youth justice advocate.

For Further Comment:

Media Spokespeople:
Latoya Rule
Vickie Roach

Media Liaison:
Meret MacDonald 0456 475 810

*statistic from: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-04-15/protesters-call-for-more-to-be-done-against-deaths-in-custody/7331302 accessed 30 July 2017

Facebook: @shutyouthprisonsmparntwe
Twitter: @ShutYouthPrison


Media Release: Elijah story could happen here, 100 people occupy Supreme Court in Alice Springs

Photos and Vision available on request

Mparntwe (Alice Springs) 28 July 2017

Today one hundred people peacefully occupied the Alice Springs Supreme Court for JUSTICE FOR ELIJAH. Elijah Dougherty was a young boy killed in a racist attack in Kalgoorlie-Boulder WA in 2016. Alice Springs residents are concerned that a culture of racism within Alice Springs expressed on the Alice Springs Community Open Forum Facebook group could lead to violent attacks against young people here. Attached are screenshots of incitement to violence and death directed towards Aboriginal young people in Alice Springs.

Some of the Alice Springs Community Open Forum facebook posts were read out, screen shots are attached at bottom of the media release:
“Why didn’t you accelerate and run the little pricks over! – Jan Williams”
“Cops can only do so much unfortunately but oh well time to upgrade the bullbar – Henry Stephens”
“Let’s just walk the streets and beat up every last one of the fucks – Nathan Kenneth Bruce Stengert”

“They lock us out of justice! this little fella was mowed down killed. There is no justice for Aboriginal people in Australia. 200 years of genocide and its still happening!” said Trisha Morton Thomas an Alice Springs Resident

People gathered out front of the court, holding photos of Elijah Dougherty. Speakers raised concerns for young people in Alice Springs. Elijah’s story could happen here.

“What do I teach my kids as a mother? Don’t touch something or you’ll get shot? What happened to teaching kids about what’s fair?” said Joanne Voller, an Alice Springs resident

“What we all know is that if it was a non-Aboriginal boy that was mowed down in Kalgoolie, the killer would be sitting in jail and rotting in jail, our people get put in jail for spitting on the street!” – said Trisha Morton-Thomas an Alice Springs Resident

The Supreme Court locked its doors to the residents. Outside the Supreme Court one person was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. This charge had no grounds. The local court also closed its doors to the residents, as did the police station.

The action coincided with Justice For Elijah actions this week across the country.

“I, Dylan Voller, will fight for the justice for my brother Elijah and everyone else, my heart goes out to his family” said Dylan Voller, an Alice Springs Resident

If it’s broken, maybe we shouldn’t try to fix it

“Children’s Services called the police… put her at the back of the [police] wagon… she’s only about 12… they really traumatised her” This is some of the story shared by Joshua Poulson about his niece, who ran away from a foster care placement back to family.


The Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory, prompted when the ABC Four Corners episode in July last year sparked national outrage at the abuse of children in the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, is now focused on the child protection system, with hearings in Alice Springs and Darwin last month.


A theme that came up through the stories of those subjected to the child protection system is the violence with which this system operates, as ‘CR and CZ’, whose story was shared with Commissioners at hearings in Alice Springs, draw attention to:


“The trauma of being ripped away from family members, put in the system… you get the police going and ripping these kids from underneath their mothers or their grandparents noses.”


And again when ‘CP’ spoke: “FACS went into the house with police involved… that scares people…”


The inquiry had to include the child protection system as well as the youth detention system, because of what Katherine McFarlane, from the Centre for Law and Justice, also speaking at the hearings in Alice Springs, calls “Care Criminalisation”. As the Royal Commission interim report highlights, young people who have entered the child protection system are over represented in youth detention.


Katrina Wong, from the Legal Aid Commission NSW, emphasised to the Commissioners that there is a more frequent interaction with the criminal justice system for young people in ‘out-of-home care’, starting with workers using police as a behaviour management tool. This sets up a journey for young people that she describes as a “constant roundabout” between the criminal justice and out-of-home care systems.


The child protection system is in place to intervene when children are ‘at risk of harm’. The decision to remove a child from their family surely requires meticulous and extensive consideration, in close collaboration with the family and community. Risk of harm is assessed using tools that are supposed to make the decisions objective, but it is arguable that decisions to remove children from their families are highly subjective by practitioners working for child protection services all over the country.


In the NT, most families in the child protection system are Aboriginal; most children removed from their families are Aboriginal; and most Aboriginal children are removed from their families on the grounds of ‘neglect’ [1]. The definition of neglect is when a child’s ‘basic necessities of life are not met by their caregiver’ [2]. For example this might be in terms of lack of food provided, or ongoing health problems. In Alice Springs, child protection services are also known to be involved with families when children are not attending school every day, or when young people hang around with their peers in town at night time.


Families facing poverty are over represented in the child protection system. Facing poverty, and the many effects of social exclusion, makes it very hard to meet the basic necessities of life. You only need to spend a bit of time with families in these circumstances to understand that caregivers are up against injustice that prevents them from caring for their children in the way they would prefer.


Moreover, with the professionalisation of the social service industry, the child protection service is made up of mostly white middle class university educated workers. Listening in child protection meetings, and reading child protection case plans, it doesn’t take long to ascertain that the dominant rhetoric of child protection workers, particularly in relation to the judgement around what constitutes neglect, is inextricably linked to a colonising agenda around how children should be raised.


Additionally, we have heard in the NT Royal Commission hearings that practitioners have huge caseloads and are very ‘time poor’. This does not bode well for careful decision-making.


Families facing poverty are under high surveillance from child protection services, and are subjected to an approach that uses power and control over their lives, as a means of addressing the social injustices they face. Commissioner Mick Gooda referred to the many experiences community members have reported to him of the so-called ‘services’ they receive: “they come and go, and they do things to us”.


Furthermore, the focus of the child protection approach perpetuates a view that these families are ‘dysfunctional’. This masks the social context of these families lives, in the face of colonisation, which has families dispossessed of their land, at times disconnected from their language and culture, and marginalised in the dominant society.


The child protection system is not informed by Aboriginal approaches and practices. In the words of ‘CP’ who gave evidence to the Royal Commission “I can’t understand how they work… I don’t think Indigenous people really understand their system.”


One of the biggest criticisms of the system highlighted in the Royal Commission hearings is the lack of kinship care placements for children; most Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in the NT are placed with non-Aboriginal carers 1. As ‘CQ’ says, about family care arrangements for children in the extended family networks that constitute the Aboriginal community, “In Aboriginal culture it does work perfectly”. Aboriginal cultural knowledges and practices for caring for children look very different than the knowledge and practices that shape the model of child protection currently being implemented.


At the Royal Commission community forum in Alice Springs, a local Aboriginal community member asserted that Aboriginal people have “become an industry”. After the forum Shut Youth Prisons Mparntwe spoke further with this community member, who highlighted that “there is no collaboration with Aboriginal people, and those who get the qualifications to get jobs in these services fit the system that’s currently there, they conform and stay in those systems… people are making money off the backs of Aboriginal people’s suffering, and the suffering continues… the system doesn’t work!”


Certainly white middle class university educated people benefit from this set up; in the NT the workers in the child protection service are paid high salaries, and the out-of-home care industry is growing. The NT is the leading state for placing children in out-of-home care, with an increase of 60% of children between 2011 and 2015, compared with most other states where the numbers of children in out-of-home care increased by less than 20% in this time period [3].


Amongst a number of the failings of the child protection system highlighted in the hearings in Alice Springs, Larissa Behrendt, Chair of Indigenous Research at the University of Technology, drew attention to the “concern that more funding goes into out-of-home care than into early intervention, restoration or reunification programs”.


With all this in mind it is possible to assume that this industry is working as part of the colonisation project of assimilation.


If the purpose of the child protection system is to protect children from harm, it is unclear, when children are being separated from their families, culture and language, and to a great extent ultimately funneled into youth detention centres which uphold practices of disconnection and dehumanisation, how this system is meeting its own objectives.

It is hard to know where to begin to ‘fix’ such a system. But perhaps it is beyond this. What is required is for an entirely different system to be developed, with Aboriginal people leading this project.

[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Child Protection Australia 2014-15.

[2] Northern Territory Government 2016. Child Abuse, Types of harm.

[3] Australian Institute of Family Studies 2016, Children in Care.

Sorry means Never Again!


Media Release

26th May, 2017

Mparntwe (Alice Springs)

On May 29 the Royal Commission will begin hearings in Alice Springs to examine failings in the child protection system. Local advocacy group Shut Youth Prisons and concerned families will be gathering outside the commission hearings at 1pm to say “Sorry means never again!”

Christine Palmer, Grandmother and Arrernte Kaytetye woman, says “Empowerment must be given back to the parents and grandparents to teach and nurture their child/children back to a healthy living back on country with genuine honest workers and support to make this happen for the betterment of the whole family.”

We as an Aboriginal people and families already have a good strong kinship system that is culturally appropriate with a traditional lifestyle that works and had worked for decades but is ignored by non-Aboriginal workers.”

20 years after the Bringing Them Home report was tabled, the rates of Aboriginal children being removed from their families today is increasing. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, rates have increased by 400% in the last 15 years.

Indigenous children make up about 4% of the population but represent a third of the out-of-home care population. Aboriginal children are more than nine times more likely than non-indigenous kids to be placed in out-of-home care.

As former Don Dale guards testified during the last round of Royal Commission hearings, children in state care are incarcerated at alarming rates. Evidence made clear that the Department of Community and Families was using Don Dale as a “holding cell” for the children in their care. In doing so, Department of Community and Families systematically exposed young people to abuse.

Beginning on Monday May 29, Shut Youth Prisons and concerned families will stand up to make sure these stories are not forgotten, and are not left to rot on a shelf. We need real solutions for our young people.

Shut Youth Prisons calls for real investments in our youth’s future, funding reinstated for youth programs, strong and culturally appropriate support for families, and support for kinship care that doesn’t break a child’s connection to identity.


Email: shutyouthprisons.mparntwe@gmail.com


Dylan Voller and his sister talk to NITV about the interim report of the Royal Commission

Watch Dylan and his sister Kirra talk to NITV about his thoughts on the Interim Report of the Royal Commission, with reflections on the proceedings so far. In his first interview since an interim report found the Northern Territory’s juvenile justice system is completely broken, Dylan Voller asks why some people were allowed to work with children and calls for accountability.

Here Dylan and Kirra are on The Point (need to have an account (free) with SBS to see it):



And for the article and longer video footage (no account needed) see: