On 23 September 2022 ALSWA will give evidence to the Royal Commission into the Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability about the issues ALSWA clients face.

Research has shown that the vast majority of people in juvenile detention and prisons have a disability. People living with disability have the right to full participation in community life, to reach their full potential, to exercise control over their own lives and to live free from abuse and neglect.

Many of ALSWA’s clients with disability have significant trauma histories which are exacerbated by the way their treatment at the hands of the state, including being held in appalling conditions in Western Australian prisons and in Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

ALSWA holds grave concerns about the ongoing lockdowns at Banksia Hill Detention Centre, even though a recent WA Supreme Court case has found that the practice of locking children in cells for 20 hours per day and longer is unlawful.

The child involved in that case was 14 years old and has been diagnosed with FASD, PTSD and a Language Disorder. The child had been kept in a tiny cell for over 20 hours per day on 25 days over a six month period.

The recent practice of moving some children from Banksia Hill Detention Centre to Unit 18 at the maximum-security adult prison, Casuarina Prison, is appalling. Conditions in Unit 18 are equally draconian and include prolonged lockdowns, assaults on the children and severe restrictions on visits and access to medical assistance and education. Incidents of self-harm incidents in Unit 18 are rife.

If government is genuinely concerned about the welfare of the many vulnerable people locked up in jails, reducing recidivism rates and the long term safety of the community, its needs to immediately abandon the failed hard line punitive approach to incarceration and properly invest in culturally secure, therapeutic, trauma-informed, early intervention models of support and rehabilitation.

The conditions in Roebourne Regional Prison are a further example of the egregious failure of government to provide humane conditions for prisoners in its care. In summer, Roebourne is one of the hottest places on the planet with temperatures frequently exceeding 50 degrees.  Repeated entreaties to the Corrections Minister, Bill Johnston, to urgently install air-conditioning in all cells in the prison have fallen on deaf ears. Apparently wide brimmed hats, sunscreen and water fountains are enough to contend with extreme temperatures. It seems nothing has been learned from the entirely avoidable death of Aboriginal elder Mr Ward in the rear of a scorchingly hot, unconditioned prison van all those years ago.

CEO, Dennis Eggington said:

‘The conditions in WA prisons and detention centres breach both domestic laws and international human rights standards. ALSWA has made complaints to the WA Government and the United Nations. The treatment of our community’s most vulnerable members is a sad indictment on the McGowan Government.’

ALSWA urges the McGowan Government to:

  1. Invest in early intervention, therapeutic culturally-appropriate trauma-informed supports;
  2. abolish solitary confinement;
  3. provide appropriate medical care to people in prison;
  4. raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14 years of age;
  5. urgently review the Young Offenders Act 1994 (WA);
  6. fully implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.