Multi-million dollar settlement for mistreatment of 1,200 youths in NT detention

By Melissa Coade

Friday July 30, 2021

The Don Dale Detention Centre Darwin.
The Don Dale Detention Centre Darwin. (AAP Image/Glenn Campbell)

Young offenders who were detained in Don Dale have received a share in a $35 million settlement from the Northern Territory government.

A bid from the NT government to suppress the details of the class-action settlement was thwarted by a decision from the Federal Court this week.

As part of the settlement facilitated by law firm Maurice Blackburn, any child or young person who was mistreated while in detention at Don Dale from August 2006 to November 2017 (estimated to be up to 1,200 young offenders) can share in the government money.

Former Don Dale detainees Aaron Hyde and Dylan Jenkings were the lead applicants in the case against the NT government, who say they were ‘assaulted and abused’ by youth justice officers from the facility. 

Hyde said in a statement that he hoped the settlement would lead to change and a ‘better system for the younger mob’.

“Only the people who have walked in my shoes know what we’ve been through. Our shoes bear those scars and marks,” Hyde said.

“The brothers and sisters who are no longer with us are not forgotten and we send them our love.”

The systemic failures of youth detention arrangements in the NT was published in a 2017 Royal Commission final report, describing them as ‘shocking’, and including ‘regular, repeated and distressing mistreatment’ of young people.

As recently as June, the ABC reported that the NT government was investing $2.5 million towards refurbishing abandoned blocks at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, and that the number of people in youth detention across the Territory had nearly doubled in the last 12 months. 

Ben Slade, the lawyer representing the young men in the class-action, said the Royal Commission made clear children and young people were being damaged by the detention system, not rehabilitated.

“No amount of money will undo the ongoing harm caused by these abuses, but it is an important acknowledgement of the pain caused to hundreds of young people,” Slade said. 

“While in detention, these young people were subjected to appalling treatment that included excessive force, handcuffing, strip searching and isolation in cells.

“These young people may have broken the law, but they did not deserve to be broken by the law.”

The $35 million government settlement is not an admission that the Don Dale security officers acted illegally. However, the NT government has apologised for the way that young people have been treated in youth detention.

Maurice Blackburn is calling for anyone who was detained at Don Dale between 1 August 2006 and 27 November 2017 to register to be entitled to claim a share in the compensation money

The amount paid to each person will depend on how long they spent in detention, what they experienced, and how many others also register for the settlement money. 

Potential claimants can either register online or by making a free telephone call to 1800 226 211.


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