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Save the Children welcomes High Court ruling on unlawful tear-gassing of four teenagers in Don Dale

Youth justice system has let down some of Australia's most at-risk and disadvantaged children
04 June 2020

Save the Children has welcomed today’s High Court ruling, which found that the use of tear gas on four teenagers in the Northern Territory’s notorious Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in 2014 was unlawful.

“Today’s decision reinforces the fact that our youth justice system has let down some of our most at-risk and disadvantaged children in Australia,” said Save the Children’s Executive Director of Australian Services Matt Gardiner. 

“The type of conduct that was ruled unlawful today can have a damaging impact on a young person, how they perceive law enforcement authorities and their future life choices. 

“We know that criminalising children disproportionately harms those who are already the most disadvantaged – especially Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Today’s ruling reminds us of this national shame. 

“Instead of locking up children and in many cases condemning them to a cycle from which many never escape, we should be intervening early, and investing in therapeutic programs to support children and change behaviour. In the long run, this will make the community safer – not less safe.”

Save the Children is calling on the Northern Territory and Commonwealth Governments to implement the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory in 2017, including closing Don Dale.

“The Royal Commission revealed the extent of unlawful and inhumane conditions in which many children are detained,” Mr Gardiner said.

“While today’s ruling is vitally important, the information isn’t new. We have known about it for many years and it’s time for action.”

Save the Children is also calling for all governments to review their youth justice systems for compliance with human rights requirements, especially the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and urging the Australian Attorneys-General to commit to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 14 when they meet in July.


For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.

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