When shocking images emerged this week of teenage prisoners stripped and hooded at the Darwin Don Dale youth detention centre in Australia's Northern Territories, comparisons were made to the pictures of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US soldiers at Abu Ghraib released over a decade ago.

Just as those images shone a light on the darker side of the early years of America's invasion and occupation of Iraq, so the footage circulating from the Northern Territories, a remote, vast and largely autonomous part of Australia, has highlighted the dire conditions of Aboriginal Australians, particularly within the country's prison system.

The fact that 97% of prisoners between the ages of 10 and 17 in the Northern Territories are from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background has been known for some time, but the revelations of abuse in the region's largest juvenile detention centre have illustrated that disparity in direct and shocking terms.

"Although this has been reported over and over again it has taken the iconic photograph to get the government moving," Professor Gillian Triggs, president of the Australian Human Rights Commission, told IBTimesUK.

Australian child detention horror
A 17-year-old boy is shown hooded and shacked at a juvenile detention facility in Alice Springs, Australia, in an investifative program by the Australian Broadcasting Company.From Four Corners program by Australian Broadcasting Company

"My generation saw a naked girl – a napalm victim – running down the street in Saigon in Vietnam. You need these iconic pictures and that is pretty much what has happened here."

Australia's Institute of Health and Welfare revealed that across the country 54% of juveniles in detention between the ages of 10 and 17 are from indigenous backgrounds, including both Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent. On any night in Australia, 34 in every 10,000 Indigenous young people are in prison, compared to 1.3 per 10,000 non-indigenous, Australian media reported this week.

It was a January 2015 report into youth detention in the Northern Territories that most recently revealed the huge disparity between indigenous and non-indigenous youngsters in the prison system. It also found that indigenous juveniles were much more likely to commit their first offence at a younger age and to repeat offend.

The findings of the report pointed to a lack of training as well as an over-reliance on temporary and casual staff, but critics like Triggs see the issue as being inevitable consequences of a badly-run and remote area of Australia. Triggs believes that the result of the Royal Commission, announced this week into the Darwin centre, will result in the Northern Territories being stripped of its political autonomy.

"It is a very isolated part of the world with a tiny population and it has an element of self-governance that is frankly incompetent ... I think we have to say square on that... this population of 250,000 is simply not capable of governance and the commonwealth government needs to take it over," she said.

The pictures have forced a wider focus on the status of Aboriginal Australians, who are disproportionately affected by joblessness, poverty, alcoholism and crime. Across Australia's prison system, around 55% of juveniles are from an indigenous background. despite Aboriginal Australians only accounting for around 3% of the total population of the country.

"This could only happen in a situation where there's a lack of recognition, a lack of respect, between Aboriginal people and the rest of Australia," Andrew Jackomos, commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people in Victoria, told local radio this week.

"The core issue is the fact that Australian society has left the indigenous community behind. What we hope will come from this is a much greater level of consultation with indigenous communities and a much more emphatic understanding of the world from their perspective," said Trigg.

"The point my colleagues make – particularly my indigenous colleagues – is that they're not asking for more money. It isn't about throwing money at the problem, it never had been."