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Gardens, pets instead of NT youth 'jail'

AAP logoAAP 8/12/2016 Megan Neil

The former adult prison and run-down centre currently housing young offenders in the Northern Territory could be replaced by facilities with beautiful gardens, running tracks and pets.

A senior official in the new NT agency in charge of juvenile detention accepts the Don Dale and the Alice Springs youth detention centres are unsuitable.

"I think it's really clear that the current two detention centres are not suitable and have no therapeutic value and we have to do things vastly differently," Territory Families acting deputy CEO Jeanette Kerr said.

The government has set aside $22 million towards new youth justice facilities in Darwin and Alice Springs.

The funding won't be enough, Ms Kerr told the NT child detention royal commission.

The planning has not yet started but Ms Kerr said a detention centre would only be a small part of the new youth justice facilities.

"I don't think we can step away and say that there will not be a need for youth detention in the future, because there will be," Ms Kerr said.

"But I see it as being much smaller numbers and much more limited and only as a last resort or in exceptional circumstances."

She said the new sites will be more integrated facilities, and definitely separate to correctional centres.

It would be along the lines of a therapeutic model as suggested by former Queensland Corrective Services director-general Keith Hamburger's scathing review of NT corrections.

Ms Kerr painted a picture of a facility with a beautiful garden and running water, swimming pools, running tracks, exercise stations and animals.

It would be, she said, an environment where people actually feel safe and calm.

"The ideas are only limited by our imagination.

"We want to be able to put in programs that really suit the young people.

"Education and employment options have to be at the core of it so that when we do transition young people out, it's to something real and not just out the front gate."

Footage of six young offenders being tear-gassed and spit hooded at Don Dale sparked the royal commission into child detention.

One of the youths will appear before a closed hearing in Darwin on Friday and his evidence will remain confidential.

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