The Northern Territory Youth Justice System has a sad irony to its name right now. The footage aired last night on the ABC bears no resemblance to justice. While I accept there may be some context missing from the video and the victims may be no angels, I just can’t see any context where this is acceptable. The revelations of abuse are profoundly shocking and upsetting to many Australians, myself included.
I am also angry, really angry. I have been pretty clear in my criticism of our horrendous offshore prison camps. I’m not backing away from that, but one of my arguments had been that if we must hold refugees in detention, at least do so in our country, as I believed the atrocities of Nauru and Manus Island would not be possible at processing centres in Australia, under Australian law. That assumption has been sorely tested.
I should note that I don’t mean to imply this type of criminal behaviour is common across other corrections facilities. I just mean my faith in Australians in general has been shaken. I would like to recognise that corrections officers work in highly stressful and unpleasant work environments and I know a number of really good people who work in that industry. I would hope the rightful public anger is controlled and restricted to those that deserve it. Blanket generalisations about corrections officers throughout the country would be extremely unfair. Just as I have said many times that a few Muslim terrorists don’t make all Muslims terrorists, a few corrections officers who are not fit for the job don’t make the rest unfit.
But a full independent inquiry is certainly needed. If this appalling behaviour is possible in one facility it is possible elsewhere. It can’t be done by government (state or federal) either. Public suspicions of a cover up would taint any findings or recommendations. To Turnbull’s credit, our usually cautious Prime Minister was quick to announce there will be a Royal Commission. I don’t think he had any other choice. I suspect it is going to make for some more horrifying reading, but it is something the nation now has to know about.