'Detainees threatened my daughters': Former guard describes daily life at Don Dale

Updated March 14, 2017 17:05:54

A guard has told the royal commission into youth detention that daily life in Don Dale involved detainees who would want to punch him, spit at him and make threats about his children.

Former shift supervisor Trevor Hansen painted a grim picture as he continued giving evidence to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.

"A lot of the time we got spat at. We got things thrown at us," Mr Hansen said.

"A lot of the times they would want to punch you. That was basically daily life.

"A lot of the times the detainees would say I am going to blah blah your daughters and all this sort of stuff, and you had it thrown at you just about every day."

Wedgies not used as entertainment

Mr Hansen was questioned at about claims from a detainee known publicly only as BQ.

"Sometimes the guards would give us wedgies and punch us. It was a joke to them, they thought it would fun," BQ said in a submission, the commission was told.

But Mr Hansen denied he ever gave children "wedgies" to punish them or as a source of amusement for other staff and said he was very aware of detainees' needs and wants.

"I was about five seconds away from losing a detainee in a cell. He was hanging himself with his underpants. That was close," he said.

"It does affect you. You are only a human being, no matter what."

'This place was stressing him out'

The royal commission also heard about an incident in April 2009 when a youth worker approached the then acting assistant manager at Don Dale, Adrian Martin, in a state of apparent agitation.

Children had reported being scared of the youth worker and seeing him pick up a small table or desk and throwing it across a yard, an internal investigation report tendered to the royal commission said.

"He is big and when he got angry I was afraid he might grab us," the investigation quoted as detainee as saying.

Mr Martin said in the worker was red in the face and breathing heavily.

The youth worker then said "that it was all f**cked and this place was stressing him out and he was going to break something," the document said.

Guard 'flirtatious' with detainees

The former acting general manager of Don Dale, John Fattore, also gave evidence today.

He was questioned about another worker who in 2007 had been the subject of claims he was "flirtatious" with detainees, and made numerous remarks of a sexual nature to male and female detainees.

But the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) at Don Dale only became involved in addressing his behaviour after he was alleged to have sexually harassed a female member of staff.

"There was all of this information that was circulating, but the incident that actually sparked your investigation concerned the sexual harassment of this man of another staff member, is that correct?" counsel assisting the commission Peter Callaghan asked.

"Yes, that is correct," Mr Fattore answered.

Alice Springs youth detention centre 'worse than Don Dale'

Mr Fattore was also questioned by Felicity Graham, who represented the Central Australian Aboriginal Legal Service (CAALAS), about conditions in the Alice Springs detention centre.

"As at October 2011, is it fair to say that you were of the view that the staffing levels at the Alice Springs youth detention centre were at a level below what was required to meet the bare minimum standards of the duty of care to the children that you had in detention there?" Ms Graham asked.

Mr Fattore: "As compared to the Don Dale centre, yes."

Ms Graham: "Your view was that the Alice Springs detention centre levels didn't even meet the level at Don Dale?"

Mr Fattore: "For a portion of the day, no."

Ms Graham also asked whether the biggest risk was the consequences of "a continued failure to meet the bare minimum standard of duty of care" to children in detention.

"I believe that it is a risk, yes," Mr Fattore said.

Topics:royal-commissions, youth, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, alice-springs-0870, darwin-0800

First posted March 14, 2017 14:37:15

Read more http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-14/guard-describes-grim-working-life-in-don-dale/8352906