Arrernte House traces its beginning to February 1975 when the …

Comment on Dylan Voller’s mistreatment started in Alice Springs by Alex Nelson.

Arrernte House traces its beginning to February 1975 when the Whitlam Government announced that Lot 215 on South Terrace was the site chosen for “a remand centre for children and plans [were] being prepared by the Social Development Branch of the Northern Territory”.
The Department of Housing and Construction announced the awarding of the tender for “the juvenile remand and assessment centre” to Sitzler Bros. in October 1975.
“The centre will have family-type accommodation for up to 18 young people” and the “attractive concrete brick buildings will be arranged around a centre courtyard” with “facilities for group activities such as crafts and recreation areas”.
The new “Alice Springs Training and Assessment Centre” was officially opened by Senator Bernie Kilgariff almost 40 years ago on October 27, 1977 – Universal Children’s Day – which he named Giles House.
It was already controversial “because although completed some months ago, the centre has remained closed because of lack of staff. Juvenile offenders on remand are now being held in the prison for adults”.
At the official opening, the Assistant Director of Social Development assured “the centre would encourage children to ‘look out’ – not to restrict them” and “that the purpose of the institution was to look after the welfare of children who had failed to conform. It was not a punitive institution”.
Senator Kilgariff stated the centre “would do away with the practice of having to send children to the adult prison”.
He “also announced the formation of a committee advising the centre on Aboriginal or part-coloured inmates. Representatives from Aboriginal organisations would serve on that committee” and “consideration was also being given to the training of Aboriginal welfare workers”.
The Deputy Leader of the NT Opposition, Neville Perkins, “welcomed the establishment of the centre”, describing it as “potentially a significant improvement on the previous situation whereby there was a serious lack of proper retention facilities other than gaol for children in conflict with the law”.
Perkins further stated: “In view of the fact that a suitable facility for juveniles in conflict with the courts is now established, the Majority Party [CLP] has a responsibility to legislate immediately to halt the practice of gaoling children with adult prisoners under the provisions of the Social Welfare Ordinance.
“Since the statistics indicate that the largest proportion of juvenile residents at the centre are likely to be Aboriginal, it is vital that the Department of the Northern Territory make provision for the appointment of Aboriginal parole officers to operate at the community level in coming to terms with delinquency problems. The limited accommodation capacity of the centre also reinforces the need for suitable arrangements in dealing with juvenile problems in the community.
“The available statistics demonstrate also the need for sufficient Aboriginal staff to be trained and employed by the centre, especially in regard to improving the cultural and communications barriers which are likely to arise”.
A school social worker, John McCarthy, “described the concept of using Giles House for the purpose of training and rehabilitating Aboriginal juveniles who didn’t conform on settlements and missions as yet another example of the outdated and archaic thinking of government departments in the field of Aboriginal welfare.
“Mr McCarthy said it was quite unrealistic for administrators to believe a white, urban, middle-class institution could prepare rural Aboriginal youth from a predominantly Aboriginal community to conform to the standards of their own particular community and culture”.
Early in 1978 Giles House was still experiencing problems when the Member for Alice Springs, Rod Oliver, revealed the centre housed only two inmates believed to be “two male Aborigines aged 14 and 15” and that “he understood that staffing problems were the reason why Giles House was not yet being used.
“An official opening was held on October 27 last year when a director was appointed” but “in the meantime many sources have expressed concern over children being held in the adult prison.
“A local social worker said about 150 children had been held in the Alice gaol since 1973, some of them more than once – a total of 200 admissions. Of the 200 admissions 39 were of children under 14 years.
“The two children in gaol now were practically in solitary confinement for 14 hours a day because they were being kept separate from the adult prisoners for much of the time.”
All of this was happening in the late 1970s when I was a student at the Alice Springs High School. One of my classmates was Mark Payne, who eventually rose to become an Assistant Commissioner of the NT Police until recently appointed as Corrections Commissioner.
Giles House came under review by the NT Government in September 1990 when once again it was down to two inmates. Correctional Services Minister Mike Reed “admitted the operational future of Giles House lay in different areas with the opening of Darwin’s Don Dale juvenile centre [scheduled] in May 1991.
“The Don Dale Centre will cope with the future needs of Territory juvenile justice.”
The Director of Probation, Parole and Juvenile Justice, Lyn Keogh, “would endeavour to discover future additional uses and alternative programs for Giles House” which may include “housing for youngsters that need accommodation because of a home situation” and “juveniles in custody that can’t survive in normal schools”.
In January 1991 it was announced “Giles House will all but close as a juvenile detention centre from July this year when the new $1.7 million Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre in Darwin is completed.
“When Giles House was first built, it was the only juvenile detention facility in the Territory and the majority of offenders were from the Top End. The number of youths at Giles House began declining when the Malak House in Darwin and the Wilderness Youth Camp in the Top End began operating.
“Transport and Works Minister Fred Finch said Territory builders P. W. Baxter and Associates had been awarded the contract to build the new Don Dale centre which will replace Malak House. It will be purpose built for juvenile offenders and house maximum and minimum security prisoners.
“Mr Finch said it would include a medical centre, catering and laundry facilities, administration area, swimming pool and multi-purpose ball court”.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Student boarding funding restored – for now
Isn’t that something? A minister of the NT Government has listened to concerns about a government decision, and reversed it in a day.
Little aggravation, and great relief for many, I should think.
Minister Selena Uibo has set a fine example – now, if only certain others of her colleagues would take notice of public concern about the NT Government’s poor decision-making over the location of the proposed National Aboriginal Art Gallery…


Remains of missing man found near Yambah
@ John Bell (Posted September 20, 2018 at 10:21 pm): The skeleton was identified, a young man only recently arrived in Alice Springs in 1965. It’s believed he was a victim of an accidental discharge of his rifle, not a suicide.


Ring a bell?
Is it just me, or is it the case that the “Boundless Possible” embarrassment has suffered a swift death, consigned quietly to the wheelie bin of history?
Ah yes, a government elected into office that promised us all greater standards of honesty and accountability; but no, it’s just business as usual, that we’ve long endured for decades in the Northern Territory.
It really makes no difference who’s in charge.


Four dogs suspected poisoned with 1080
@ Ruth Weston (Posted September 7, 2018 at 1:08 pm): Sodium fluoroacetate is the commercially produced 1080 poison, and is closely related to potassium fluoroacetate, the poisonous chemical found in a wide variety of plant species.
Both chemicals have the same effect, disrupting the Krebs Cycle (or Citric Acid Cycle) which disrupts the ability of cells to metabolise carbohydrates, fats and proteins for energy production.
It was biochemist Ray Murray, based in Alice Springs with the Animal Industry Branch from 1954 to 1966, who first identified the naturally occurring 1080-based compound that occurs sporadically in poison Gidgee (Acacia georginae) which plagued the beef cattle industry in the east of Central Australia and across the Queensland border.


Stagnant CBD; industrial land, rental shortage; houses hold
The photo caption “The ANZ Bank has relocated from this prime Todd Street North site, opposite the Visitor Centre, to Gregory Terrace” serves – perhaps inadvertently – to emphasise the “moving of deckchairs” in the CBD, as the Visitor Centre itself was relocated to its present site a few years ago from its former Gregory Terrace location adjacent to the Civic Centre … and that particular building, the former Queen Elizabeth II Infant Welfare Clinic, that was heavily modified and opened to great fanfare in 1997 as the new Visitor Centre, remains steadfastly vacant.
Aside from the shift of the ANZ Bank (which, incidentally, opened its doors on its former Parsons Street site in August 1962, exactly 56 years ago) and the recent Wicked Kneads shop on the opposite corner now up for sale, there has also been the closure recently of two nearby hairdresser businesses, too – one of which was for sale for a long time but obviously attracted no serious interest.
Just yesterday, walking along Gregory Terrace, I was shocked to see “For lease” notices plastering the windows of La Casalinga restaurant, a long-standing business in this town and even something of an institution.
This town has weathered significant economic downturns on previous occasions – the mid 1970s, the late 1980s and early 1990s – but I’ve never seen the relocation of so many businesses (the “shifting of deckchairs”) on such a scale as has been occurring in recent years. It’s quite a phenomenon.
This situation is concurrent with the only significant new developments – the Green Well Building in Bath Street and the multi-storey Supreme Court building in Parsons Street – being occupied by government departments and instrumentalities, to the detriment of existing commercial lease stock in town. These developments, along with the re-opening of Todd Street North to traffic again, have done nothing to arrest the decline of the CBD, notwithstanding all the hype and propaganda of government and the private sector arguing in support of them.
Recent history quite clearly shows that the proposed National Indigenous Art Gallery will prove NOT to be the economic nirvana for this town. Exactly the same rationale was given for the developments of the casino almost four decades ago, the major hotel developments in the 1980s and the Alice Springs Desert Park in the 1990s – clearly none of these institutions, either on their own or altogether, have assisted in averting the current decline of our town, and there is no reason or evidence to show that the gallery will prove to be any different.
On the contrary, it will be yet another expensive long-term burden for the taxpayer to bear.


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