Victims need Aboriginal listeners: Labor

By By Elise Scott
1 / 2

Shorten to consult on indigenous issues

Labor's Bill Shorten is heading to the Northern Territory for talks with indigenous leaders.

Labor wants two indigenous Australians to preside over a royal commission into youth detention in the Northern Territory, insisting victims deserve to have Aboriginal people listen to their testimony.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten's call comes as the United Nations Human Rights Commission warns Australia may have breached two child rights conventions by the abuse at Don Dale detention centre.

After holding talks with Aboriginal groups in Darwin on Saturday, Mr Shorten called for two co-commissioners of indigenous heritage to be assigned to the royal commission.

He also urged Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to follow his lead and visit the territory in person to listen to indigenous voices.

"This royal commission has to be done with Aboriginal people, not to Aboriginal people," Mr Shorten told reporters in Darwin on Saturday.

"Their stories deserve to be heard and they deserve to see Aboriginal commissioners hearing their story."

At least 95 per cent of young people in NT detention centres are indigenous.

Mr Turnbull revealed the terms of reference for the royal commission on Thursday, just days after the ABC aired footage of brutal abuse of children behind bars.

The footage showed young boys being stripped naked, tear-gassed and held in solitary confinement.

One boy was shackled to a "mechanical device" chair before being left alone for two hours while another was tackled, lifted and hurled across a room.

Mr Turnbull has been criticised for failing to properly consult with Aboriginal organisations over the commission, which will be headed by former NT chief justice Brian Martin.

Attorney-General George Brandis and Mr Turnbull consulted two of the most prominent indigenous spokespeople in Australia - Mick Gooda and Warren Mundine - in drafting the terms of reference.

The UN high commissioner for human rights welcomed the royal commission, while calling for compensation and psychosocial rehabilitation for victims of Don Dale centre.

"We are shocked by the video footage that has emerged from Don Dale youth detention centre," a spokesman for the high commissioner said in a statement.

The commissioner labelled the conditions "inhumane" and the treatment "cruel".

"Most of the children who were held at the detention facility are deeply traumatised," the spokesman said.

The UN commission warned Australia it could be in breach of the convention of the rights of the child and the convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment - to which Australia is a party.

It wants the inquiry into the mistreatment extended to other states and territories.

The prime minister has ruled that out, insisting a focused inquiry would be most successful.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce labelled Mr Shorten's call for two indigenous co-commissioners a "fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants idea".

"I can't think of one where there's been a number of judges with equal powers," he told ABC television on Saturday.

Mr Shorten and his wife Chloe will attend the Garma Festival, along with WA senator Patrick Dodson and NT senator Malarndirri McCarthy.

He will deliver a speech, meet with Aboriginal leaders and participate in a forum on eliminating domestic violence.