6 May 1996
The Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre was built in 1991, the NT’s first purpose-built institution for young male and female offenders aged 10 to 16 years. Don Dale provided medium to high level detention, usually in single cells. By the early 2000s all detainees at Don Dale were expected to attend school unless they were involved in vocational programs. The Centre was named after the late Don Dale, a former Minister of Correctional Services and ‘street kid’ who turned his life around. Don Dales story was an inspiration for many young Territorians who had taken a wrong turn early in life. In Central Australia Aranda House (formerly Giles House) modelled on the Don Dale Centre operated between 1989 until early 2011. Under successive CLP Governments the NT had been at the forefront of innovative policies to deal with juvenile crime (largely property offences) including early intervention through school based constables and boot camps such as the Wildman River Wilderness Camp established on the Mary River during the 1980s. Wildman River was designed for male juvenile detainees from remote Aboriginal communities with a focus on reparation through work generally for the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. Wildman River was subsequently closed down by the Martin Labor Government in 2001. In the early years the overall strategy to deal with juvenile offenders and youth at risk earned plaudits Australia wide and attracted much positive coverage. The Governor General Sir William Deane AC KBE expressed an interest in visiting Don Dale to see for himself, unaccompanied with unrestricted access to staff and inmates.