10TH February 2017

The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA (ALSWA) welcomes the announcement by the Commonwealth Government that it intends to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) by December this year.

ALSWA Acting CEO, John Bedford, notes that the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, with the necessary additional funding and resources, is best placed to assess Western Australia’s compliance with the OPCAT.

Mr Bedford says that the ratification of OPCAT and the establishment of a state-based oversight body was absolutely critical to ensure WA’s compliance with its obligations. This is particularly the case given ALSWA’s long standing serious concerns about the numbers of Aboriginal juvenile detainees being held in solitary confinement at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

“We have had a number of juvenile clients whose mental health has been severely impacted to the point that they have self-harmed after being held in solitary confinement or been subject to other management regimes where they have been confined to their cells for up to 23 hours a day, for weeks on end. This situation is an anathema in a civilised society and runs counter to every principle of juvenile justice. WA has its own version of Don Dale unfolding under its nose and the ratification of OPCAT will hopefully provide a vehicle to put an end to these outrageous practices”, Mr Bedford said.

Media Enquires to Jodi Hoffmann ALSWA Media Officer 0428 948 610