Around 700 people rallied in Melbourne on Saturday, while similar protests were staged in other major cities around the country criticizing the government's response to video footage showing aboriginal children being tear-gassed and abused in prison.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has ordered an inquiry into the treatment of children in the detention center after the Australian Broadcasting Corporation this week aired footage showing guards tear-gassing teenage inmates and strapping a half-naked, hooded boy to a chair.
Meanwhile, the United Nation Human Rights High Commission called on Australia on Friday to compensate children abused in prison.
“We are shocked by the video footage that has emerged from Don Dale youth detention center in the Northern Territory,” the U.N .Human Rights Office of High Commission said in a statement. “We call on the authorities to identify those who committed abuses against the children and to hold them responsible for such acts... Compensation should also be provided.”
The Northern Territory’s corrections minister was sacked just hours following the broadcast and on Wednesday the territory suspended the use of hoods and restraints on children.
On Friday the Northern Territory government dropped charges against two of the six children tear-gassed by police. According to court documents, the children had been charged in June for damaging the prison in an escape attempt.
U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said that the use of hoods, restraints and gas on children in detention centers could violate the U.N. treaty barring torture.
Aborigines comprise just 3 percent of Australia’s population, but make up 27 percent of those in prison and represent 94 percent of the Northern Territory’s juvenile inmates.
Australia’s roughly 700,000 Indigenous citizens track near the bottom of almost every economic and social indicator for the country’s 23 million people.