You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Jail a 'rite of passage' for NT kids

AAP logoAAP 24/10/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

Aboriginal boys living in remote communities in the Northern Territory consider going to jail a right of passage where they can pump iron and "be like their uncles", the royal commission into youth detention has heard.

Residents in the Arnhem Land community of Groote Eylandt have told the inquiry that boys as young as 10 aspire to go to Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

Angurugu school principal Stephanie Blitner says being locked up has become a "rite of passage".

"Their uncles went to jail, so that's how they become a man," she told AAP.

"They just think they're going to be able to pump iron and come back with muscles."

Ms Blitner has been teaching at the school since the late 1980s and says attendance rates now stand at 40 per cent.

Indigenous kids living on the mineral-rich island face a lack of adequate housing, food and education despite communities receiving millions in royalties from South32's GEMCO manganese mine.

One woman, who did not wish to be identified, says the community won't be able to break down the prestige of going to jail if children are living in poverty.

"That mine has been there for 50 years. It's so profitable. Why are we having kids that are hungry? Why are five kids sharing a mattress that's dirty?" she said.

"There is no accountability for the funds being spent here and it's not reaching the kids."

Commissioners Margaret White and Mick Gooda are touring remote indigenous communities across the Territory before the inquiry resumes formal hearings in November.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the inquiry in July after ABC's Four Corners aired footage of boys being tear-gassed, shackled and spit hooded at Don Dale.

Anindilyakwa Land Council chairman Tony Wurramarrba echoed mounting calls for greater indigenous consultation.

Aboriginals were vastly over-represented in the child protection and justice systems, yet their voices weren't heard, he said.

"The underlying issue is the intervention - our self determination was taken away from us," Mr Wurramarrba said.

"People down in Canberra are making all the decisions but they don't live here. I do, my people do.

"If you want us to be accountable for our children, give us our rights back."

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon