The Northern Territory Government will spend up to $2 million upgrading the fire protection system at the Don Dale juvenile detention centre, even though plans are underway to close the controversial facility.
Incidents at Don Dale, including the tear-gassing of six teenagers in 2014, featured in a Four Corners report that led to the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
One of the key recommendations made in the inquiry’s final report last month was for the Government to report back within three months on its plans to decommission Don Dale.
But while that process is underway, the Government is having to continue to pour money into the former adult jail, after a recent audit revealed the fire protection system needed to be upgraded.
“As with all NT Government infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools, there is an obligation to ensure safety and regular audits are required,” a spokeswoman for Territory Families, which oversees youth justice in the Northern Territory, said.
“During one of these regular service audits it was identified that the existing fire hydrant system at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre had reached the end of its service life.”
The project is expected to cost between $1 million and $2 million and be completed by the middle of next year.
Despite the requirement to upgrade the fire protection system, Territory Families insisted the facility remains safe for detainees and staff.
“At Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, the new fire hydrant service to be installed includes tanks and hydrant coverage for each of the occupied blocks within the facility,” the spokeswoman said.
“This is an alternative solution designed by a fire engineer, certified by a building certifier and approved by the Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service.”
Thirteen juveniles are currently held at Don Dale.
Territory Families said it was too early to say when the facility would be closed.
“The NT Government committed to delivering an initial whole-of-government response to the 227 findings and recommendations in three months,” the spokeswoman said.
“This included the replacement of the Don Dale and Alice Springs Youth Detention facilities with new secure facilities.
“While Territory Families is committed to acting quickly, it would be premature to commit to any specific timeframe prior to the delivery of that response.”