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Wednesday, 14 August 1974
Page: 880

Senator James McClelland (NEW SOUTH WALES) - I refer the Attorney-General to a report in this morning's Melbourne 'Age' that 1 1 juveniles at present are detained in Fannie Bay Gaol in Darwin. Is tins report correct ? If so, why are these children so detained?

Senator MURPHY - The report is correct; they are detained there. In my opinion they should not be there. Why are they detained there? I suppose that the basic reason is the barbarous prison system which has operated throughout Australia's history. We started as a penal colony. I suppose that we had one of the worst prison systems in the world, and we have maintained our traditions. Other civilised countries, such as Mexico, have advanced to the stage where the detention of persons is accompanied by a great deal of humanity and rehabilitative treatment. Humanity and rehabilitative treatment creep into our system in certain parts, but there is very little of it to be seen.

Fannie Bay Gaol is a disgrace and the fact that juveniles are held is a disgrace. It appears that there is no proper provision for the detention of juveniles in the Northern Territory. Unfortunately some juveniles apparently need to be detained. In Darwin we also lack persons to give adequate rehabilitative treatment. I suppose- 1 need not go into all this, but I assure the honourable senator that if something could be done to enable children to be detained in proper conditions it would be done forthwith. There is no security at the other available place, Essington, except such that it would be intolerable to have children in it. I understand that now there is some suggestion of their being kept on a prison farm. Mrs Dawn Lawrie, of the Northern Territory Legislative Council, has raised the matter, otherwise very little would be done. The fact that juveniles have been kept there has been pointed out over a period of years. Little was done in this sphere, as utile has been done in other spheres.

I understand that, even worse than the keeping of juveniles at Fannie Bay Gaol, persons whose only crime is that they are sick also have been detained in the prison from time to time because there is no other place in which to keep them. This is to the distress of all people concerned with law enforcement in the Northern Territory.

Senator Webster - Are these matters not under your control?

Senator MURPHY - It happens that this is not under my control. I am not apportioning responsibility. If one wants to point to responsibility- I have not done so- it clearly is as a result of many years of neglect by the previous Administration. If the honourable senator wants me to say that, then I will say it. That is the fact. This was tolerated. This Government is conscious of this and is going to try to do something about it. I will tell the Senate that if nothing is done about this fairly promptly - (Opposition senators interjecting)

Senator MURPHY - It is a matter of mirth for honourable senators opposite who prate about civil liberties. The fact that sick persons and children are detained in an institution where they should not be detained is a matter of merriment for honourable senators opposite because they cannot yet see their way clear to make a political stunt out of it. I say this to them: If it is a question of whether children should be detained in such a place- a place where they should not be detained- because there is no other place for them, the attitude I will take is that they ought to go free.

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