The corrections minister for the Northern Territory has lost his job over footage released on Australian national television of the horrific abuse of juveniles in detention.
After disturbing footage was aired on the Australian ABC television channel on Monday night, John Elferink, the Northern Territory corrections minister has been fired. The Northern Territory chief minister, Adam Giles, reportedly today took over the corrections portfolio from Elferink.
— Bridie Jabour (@bkjabour) July 26, 2016
The footage, some of which dates back to 2014, shows young boys, stripped naked and held in solitary confinement for days, as well as being tear-gassed.
The following video shows the tear-gassing of a juvenile, while employees of the prison laugh. Warning, the footage contains strong language and may upset sensitive viewers.
Following the Four Corners program on ABC, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced this morning that a Royal Commission into Northern Territory youth detention is to be carried out.
Speaking of the abuse, barrister John Lawrence told ABC, “They’re being shackled to chairs a la Guantanamo Bay.”
“This is actually happening in Australia in 2016”.
Elferink was interviewed on the program and admitted he had not seen a lot of the footage, but did say, “That demonstrates a lack of training.”
“When matters come to me I make sure they’re investigated”.
However, Elferink has since lost his job and lawyers and activists are now calling for the Don Dale Youth Detention Center to be shut down permanently.
— Deb Rock (@outbackdeb) July 26, 2016
On Tuesday, lawyers called for the immediate release of one of the detainees who appeared in the brutal video footage. Dylan Voller currently remains in detention.
In a statement, Peter O’Brien of O’Brien Solicitors, acting for Voller, said, “He must be released immediately. The impact of these years of brutalization must be immediately measured and he needs immediate assistance.”
O’Brien added that in fact, any child locked up in solitary confinement in the Northern Territory should be released immediately.
Voller is shown in more recent video footage, restrained in a mechanical chair and wearing a hood, in the Darwin youth detention center. According to a report by 9News, the boy was victimized by the guards, assaulted, stripped naked and tear-gassed back in 2014.
Prior to that, the following footage shows Dylan at the age of 13, being held up by his neck and thrown into a cell in the behavioral management unit at Don Dale Youth Detention Center. According to the description on the video, the officer involved was charged, but found not guilty of assault.
Warning: The footage may upset sensitive viewers.
In March 2015, he was strapped to the mechanical chair for two hours, with his head covered by a hood. Dylan was detained in the Youth Detention Center in Alice Springs at that time.
The article on 9News contains a full transcript of the video footage relating to Voller and a video is included here. Warning, the footage may upset sensitive viewers.
Dylan’s sister, Kira, reportedly told ABC local radio station that she wants the guards held accountable for the damage done to her brother in incarceration.
The fact that Kira is calling for justice for her brother is the reason the family authorized the release of the footage to ABC.
“He deserves his life back, he’s been in and out of jail from the age of 11, 10, and he’s 19 this year, that’s half of his whole life; he’s lost everything,” she said.
Voller’s sister said what she would really like to see is for the prison staff to recognize the fact they have damaged him, a lot more than they have helped her brother.
“These people are already full-grown adults and made the decision to harm that child while they were working,” she said.
Saying the law permitting the use of mechanical restraints should be overturned, Kira added, “The government gave them that responsibility, to care for these kids, and instead they abused that role.”
Voller is now being held in the Holtze adult prison and expects to be released next month, but Kira said her brother has lost hope. She said the last time she visited him there was “no smile, there was no emotion, there was nothing, I couldn’t give him anything to be positive about and that really broke me.”
“I want him to know he’s still a person and people still love him and he still has hope for a life.”
[Photo by Skyward Kick Productions / Shutterstock]