MEDIA RELEASE (30.06.21): Alarming report on conditions in the Banksia Hill Detention Centre
A key stakeholder in the Pilbara, West Kimberley and Goldfields regions has expressed concerns about findings in the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services’ report on the Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
The Inspection Report, which was recently handed down in Parliament, revealed that Aboriginal young people continue to be overrepresented in the state’s only detention centre for offenders aged 10-17, making up 74 per cent of the custodial population, and more than a third of whom are seriously displaced from their homes and their families in regional Western Australia.
Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA, a specialist Family Violence organisation which provides legal assistance, preventative education and social supports for Aboriginal victims of family and domestic violence throughout remote and regional Western Australia, said that the findings of the report, particularly regarding Aboriginal children, were problematic.
Particularly concerning was the scant and inconsistent consideration of the need to reflect Aboriginal culture and deliver services, to an overwhelmingly Aboriginal population, in a culturally relevant way. Failures to feature cultural activities in daily operations and reports of an “underwhelming and seldom used” cultural meeting place are negligent of the importance of culture to Aboriginal young people and ignorant of the impact that culture can have on a young person’s rehabilitation.
AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that the young people in Banksia Hill have often themselves been traumatised and victimized, leading to their offending. “These are some of our state’s most vulnerable children, who have experienced significant trauma in their own lives and likely only been drawn into criminal activity due to circumstances out of their control”. For AFLS, the finding that there are still some “missed opportunities” to draw on culture and close the gap for Aboriginal young people is troubling.
Ms. Martin also questioned the failure to appoint an Aboriginal Health Worker to the Centre, despite suggestions from the Office of the Inspector in previous reports on Banksia Hill that the Department of Justice do just that. “Other nurses may be experienced in working with Aboriginal patients and may have a level of cultural competency, but an Aboriginal Health Worker is likely going to feel more accessible to young people and be critical to improving their health outcomes”.
And, despite research by the Telethon Kids Institute in 2015 and 2016 finding that “almost 90 per cent of detainees had at least one domain of severe neurodevelopmental impairment”, the report found that Banksia Hill has no Education Assistants and only two Aboriginal Education Officers for the whole school, who “simply didn’t have the capacity and were typically only able to spend half a day in each classroom once a week”.
Ms. Martin urged the WA Government to consider the significant rehabilitative impact of education to young people and the importance of cultural competency in that service.
“We must ensure that we are supporting our young people, who are among the highest need and vulnerable in the state, to connect to their culture and access culturally safe health and education services. It is the only way to guarantee that we are giving them the best chance to turn their lives around and rehabilitate positively into the community.”
Media Contact – Laney Gould 9355 1502