[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Primate of Australia, Archbishop Philip Freier, has welcomed a Royal Commission investigation into youth detention in the Northern Territory. Some 97 per cent of young people held in detention in the area are Indigenous, despite Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people comprising only 17 per cent of the total Northern Territory population. Archbishop Philip described this continually rising figure as “deplorable”.
The Archbishop welcomed the announcement that former Northern Territory Supreme Court judge Brian Martin was standing down from the Commission over suggestions that he may have a conflict of interest; and welcomed the appointment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda to serve alongside the former Queensland Supreme Court judge Margaret White on the Royal Commission.
“I also commend the speed with which Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull acted to call a Royal Commission hours after the Four Corners report highlighting the abuse of incarcerated Aboriginal minors was shown on television last week,” Archbishop Philip said. “Having just visited a remote Arnhem Land community in my role as Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, I was made aware again of the high incarceration rate among Indigenous youth. . .
“Indeed, research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveals that children who are placed in detention are three times more likely to return to detention within twelve months of being released.
“Aboriginal Anglicans have told me how important it is for crime prevention and rehabilitation programs to be developed in consultation with Aboriginal people, and also urge the end of mandatory sentencing in the Territory.”