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NT commissioners visit youth facilities

AAP logoAAP 6/12/2016

Commissioners want to see firsthand the Northern Territory's controversial juvenile detention facilities before hearing from current and former detainees.

Margaret White and Mick Gooda, who are leading the NT child detention royal commission, will tour the former and current Don Dale youth detention facilities and Darwin watch house on Wednesday.

"These site visits will allow us to see firsthand the subject matter of the evidence that has already been given and that will be given by future witnesses," Ms White said.

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

At least two of the boys will be among the current and former inmates giving evidence to the commission's public hearing in Darwin over the next week.

The Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is housed in what was the old Darwin correctional centre at Berrimah.

Accommodating youth offenders in a facility that was condemned when it housed adult prisoners is unacceptable, and nothing will make the old Darwin correctional centre suitable for youth offenders, the team who conducted a scathing review of the NT corrections system found.

Former Queensland Corrective Services director-general Keith Hamburger, who led the review, said the royal commission is a watershed opportunity.

"The Northern Territory has somewhere near the world's worst imprisonment rate. That alone is obviously a huge indicator of social and economic failure for remote communities and it needs to be addressed urgently.

"I would hate to see at the end of all this that we do some tinkering around the edges and we go on as business as usual with a few of the hot spots sort of dealt with but no real chance in giving empowerment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people."

Mr Hamburger said young people in those communities should have the same opportunity as youths across Australia generally.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 85 per cent of the prison population and 95 per cent of those in juvenile justice in the NT, the inquiry heard.

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