A boy in the Northern Territory has died “as a direct result of sniffing” the inhalants that helped alleviate his hunger, the royal commission into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory has heard.
He was “genial” child who frequented Bushmob – an organisation dedicated to helping youth at risk in indigenous communities.
“The boy was returned to Bushmob on a number of occasions when he was in a state of extreme hunger and physical neglect,” the Bushmob submission to the royal commission, published on Thursday, reads.
“He told Bushmob he sniffed because he was not fed and it stopped his hunger. He said he did not want to be with his mother because she did not feed him and she drank alcohol. He was in clothing donated from another youth service.”
The boy slipped between Bushmob and other community services, his habit of sniffing and running away made it difficult for these services to provide him a permanent place to land.
He was known to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) because he was found handling hazardous substances – there were a total of five reports to DCF and the police about his inhalant use.
He was known to the justice department and the Department of Corrections because he was found stealing food from the supermarket.
On every occasion that the boy was sent to Bushmob, Bushmob also notified the government agency. “DCF did not provide feed back to Bushmob in relation to these notifications. On one occasion DCF asked Bushmob not to contact them as the child was not their client.”
A boy starving, sick, and regularly sniffing inhalants because the high helped him forget his hunger pains, and still, there was no one there to catch him…
“The child was not their client.”
Instead, the boy was found unresponsive on the warm bitumen of an Alice Springs carpark and died in hospital soon after.
This happened in Australia. Our Australia.
“It is understood the coroner’s report determined the child died as a direct result of sniffing inhalants,” the Bushmob submission reads.
“In Bushmob’s view the death of this child could have been prevented. There were multiple points at which his circumstances could have been investigated by DCF and action taken.”