Human rights group labels WA ‘lone wolf’ on child rights abuse over plan to move youth to adult prison

National Indigenous Times | Giovanni TorreBroome Advertiser
Tour of Banksia Prison, Canning Vale.
Camera IconTour of Banksia Prison, Canning Vale. Credit: Sharon Smith/The West Australian, by Sharon Smith

Australian Lawyers for Human Rights has condemned the West Australian government’s decision to transfer 20 children from Banksia Hill Detention Centre to the maximum security adult Casuarina Prison.

The organisation said there were no circumstances which justified the placement of children in adult prison facilities, joining a growing number of groups opposed to the move.

ALHR president Kerry Weste said the move was inconsistent with international human rights standards and contrary to medical and psychological evidence on how to reduce recidivism and facilitate rehabilitation of children without incarceration.

“This is both a dangerous and self-defeating decision,” she said.

Over 100 people gathered at Forrest Chase to protest against youth at Banksia Hill Detention Centre getting sent to Casuarina Prison. Protestors march though the CBD to David Malcolm Justice Centre.
Camera IconOver 100 people gathered at Forrest Chase to protest against youth at Banksia Hill Detention Centre getting sent to Casuarina Prison. Protestors march though the CBD to David Malcolm Justice Centre. Credit: Kelsey Reid/The West Australian

Earlier this month the State Government said the move was necessitated by damage to cells caused by some of the detained children, with 30 cells unfit for use out of more than 100 that had been “seriously impacted”.

A spokesperson for Corrective Services said a small cohort of detainees was responsible for “unprecedented” destruction of cells and infrastructure and attacks on staff.

“(The move to Casaurina) is a necessary measure to relocate the cohort of about 20 detainees to a safer and more secure place,” they said.

“The temporary youth detention centre will be managed by youth custodial officers and other Banksia Hill and Youth Justice staff.

“All the same services offered at Banksia Hill including medical, mental health, education and other support programs will also be delivered at the newly gazetted facility.”

The spokesperson said the centre would be used for up to one year while works were completed at Banksia Hill.

ALHR wrote to WA Premier Mark McGowan urging his government to reverse the decision and to consider alternatives such as releasing children being held on remand and under the age of 14 years old to reduce pressure on Banksia Hill.

Ms Weste said the planned transfer to Casuarina would make Western Australia “a lone wolf” in its abuse of children’s rights.

“It will be the only state in Australia moving children into the adult prison system,” she said.

“This is deeply disappointing given the last decade has seen the Queensland Parliament pass legislation to remove 17-year-olds from adult jails, and the Victorian Government’s transfer of children to the Barwon adult maximum security prison declared unlawful under the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.”

Ms Weste said the promise to keep the children away from adult prisoners meant little for human rights standards.

ALHR also emphasised that despite the now thirty-one year old Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendation that imprisonment only be used as a last resort, it would overwhelmingly be First Nations children who are disproportionately impacted by the WA Government’s decision.

During the year 2020-2021 Western Australia had the highest rate of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander youth detention in Australia with First Nations children 24 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous children.

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