The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA Ltd (ALSWA) is representing three young people who have instituted judicial review proceedings in the Supreme Court of WA in relation to ongoing lockdowns at Banksia Hill Detention Centre (BHDC) and Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison.
The court action, listed for hearing on the 11th of May, follows the declaration made by Justice Tottle on 25 August 2022 that the confinement of ‘VYZ’ to his sleeping quarters for over 20 hours a day at BHDC on 26 dates in January, February, May and June 2022 was unlawful.
“ALSWA is deeply concerned about the inhumane treatment of these young people. As Judge Quail, President of the Children’s Court has noted, these lockdowns amount to a form of ‘child abuse’” said Wayne Nannup, ALSWA CEO.
The three young people have instructed ALSWA that they experienced ongoing lockdowns involving being locked in their cells on some days for between 23 and 24 hours. One applicant alleges 134 dates of unlawful lockdowns including four days (15th to 18th August 2022) with no time out at all, totalling over 96 hours of continuous confinement, along with two days in January 2023, again with no time out.
Due to the ongoing lockdowns, ALSWA’s clients’ mental health has deteriorated leading to an increasingly distressed state and serious self-harm and suicide attempts.
ALSWA was told in July 2022 that Unit 18 would be closed by July 2023.
Mr. Nannup said: “Unit 18 is no place for young people and should be closed immediately. That said, I am also very concerned about the situation at Banksia Hill. Conditions there for young people are also draconian and it is apparent that not enough focus has been placed on staff training to ensure the safety and well being of young people”.
Mr. Nannup’s comments follow the recent conviction of a youth custodial officer of an assault upon a young person at Banksia Hill where a Magistrate expressed concern over inadequate staff training and poor management decisions at the Centre.
Since February 2022, ALSWA has sent 57 complaint letters on behalf of over 51 young people about the conditions at BHDC and Unit 18. The young people have raised a number of extremely concerning issues including:
- Extensive recent lockdowns (including no time out of cells at all);
- Sexually inappropriate behaviour by officers;
- Excessive use of force;
- Young people sleeping in wet clothes/bedding;
- Clothes and cells being extremely dirty, with rubbish left in cells for days;
- Officers using degrading and unprofessional language; and
- Children in distress and experiencing thoughts of self-harm and powerlessness.
ALSWA received no substantive responses in relation to the systemic and administrative issues, apart from some Professional Standards correspondence relating to individual staff.