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Indigenous leader to head royal commission into NT detention centre abuse

Child victims of abuse in Northern Territory detention centre will have their stories heard by both an indigenous leader and former justice after the federal government’s first choice for royal commissioner quit.

The government on Monday appointed an indigenous Australian as co-commissioner of the inquiry into NT youth prison in place of former NT chief justice Brian Martin.

Hours after Martin announced his resignation, the coalition revealed Mick Gooda would jointly head the commission with former Queensland Supreme Court justice Margaret White.

Martin quit over a perceived conflict of interest involving both his career and that of his daughter.

Several groups including the federal opposition had called for the vacancy to be filled with an indigenous Australian.

Attorney-General George Brandis said Gooda had the respect of both sides of politics and was an obvious candidate for the role.

“We’ve heard and heeded the many indigenous voices who have asked for the representation of an indigenous person on the royal commission,” said Brandis.

“Mr Gooda’s name was prominent among those recommended.”

The government had originally been criticised for rushing the terms of reference and choice of commissioner and not consulting widely with indigenous Australia.

Federal Labor praised Justice Martin for “honourably” stepping down while slamming Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for the avoidable error.

“This is what happens when you rush and you bungle, you create confusion, you create problems and put people into corners,” Bill Shorten told reporters in Darwin.

Gooda admitted there could have been more consultation but excused the rush on the urgency incited by the brutality shown in footage aired by the ABC last week.

Gooda also said he wasn’t aware of the extent of the abuse until he saw the footage, which showed boys being stripped naked, tear-gassed and held in solitary confinement.

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