ONE silver lining that may yet come from one of the darkest periods for the Northern Territory juvenile justice system revelations on the ABC's Four Corners program last week has a distinctly rural flavour.
In the middle of the cut and thrust of media engagements to speak about how the NT would address revelations of the alleged abuse of children detained at Darwin's Don Dale Detention Centre, the Chief Minister Adam Giles announced that Mataranka Station would be used as a farm for juvenile offenders.
In a statement related to the initiation of the Royal Commission that followed the airing of the Four Corners story, Mr Giles said if re-elected he intends "that a new prison farm be set up at Mataranka Station to give the justice system an alternative option to custodial detention”.
The move received welcome support from rural Territory MLA Gerry Wood, the Member for Nelson.
"The government should reopen Wildman River Work Camp or something similar, or use the abandoned Mataranka Station and get these young people out bush, where they can get away from trouble, obtain some skills, learn about and relate to animals, and under night skies have some time to clear their heads and reflect on where they are going,” Mr Wood said.
A spokesman for Labor Opposition Leader Michael Gunner said they supported the proposal in principle.
"While we are generally supportive of the idea we will wait to see the results of the Royal Commission before making a decision,” the spokesman said.
While light on detail, the proposal to utilise Mataranka Station for the Department of Corrections is not new.
After being handed back to the government by Charles Darwin University in 2014, then Corrections Commissioner Ken Middlebrook investigated the possibility of setting up a "work camp” for adult inmates so they could learn and hone skills on a working cattle station.
The station had been used by CDU since 1988 for practical training of students enrolled in rural industry programs.
The university's tenure on the station was at times controversial, with allegations of animal cruelty levelled against it in 2009.
However, two months ago the NT Government advertised for expressions of interests from parties for the 77,000-hectare station 400km south of Darwin.
A spokesman for the Chief Minister told Rural Weekly that the expression of interest process had now been suspended. The spokesman said if the government was re-elected later this month the plan was to utilise Mataranka Station as a boot-camp type farm where the detainees were taught skills related to the cattle and horticulture industries.
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