It is being called “Australia’s Abu Ghraib”. But instead of a prison for Iraqi detainees, the Don Dale juvenile detention centre in Australia’s Northern Territory holds children. Video has surfaced of young people being abused, hooded and bound while in custody, shocking the nation and prompting the prime minister to call for an investigation.

In one incident caught on tape, a guard tear-gasses six Aboriginal teens after they allegedly were aggressive toward staff. Investigators claim the teens were being kept in a small concrete cell with no natural light, air conditioning or running water for up to 23 hours a day. In another incident, a 17-year-old boy was hooded and tied to a chair shirtless for nearly two hours.

The scandal has raised questions about prison policy as well as the treatment of Australia’s aboriginal community. Less than half of young people in the Northern Territory are aboriginal, yet they make up 96 percent of the juvenile detention population there. Activists blame systemic racism in the region for what Amnesty International calls child abuse and torture. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has said Australia’s juvenile justice system as a whole needs substantial reform before meeting international standards.

So how did this even happen, and what’s being done to protect Aboriginal teens from further mistreatment?

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

John Lawrence
Barrister, Northern Territory
ntba.asn.au

Antoinette Carroll
Youth Advocacy Project Coordinator, CAALAS
caalas.com.au

Meriki Onus @Merikiko
Co-founder, Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance 

Caro Meldrum-Hanna @caromeldrum
Reporter, ABC TV’s 4 Corners
abc.net.au

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