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LETTER: lawyer's plea to WA Government to end suffering of children locked up far from home in Perth

Guest Author -

I write to you as a lawyer, as a father and as an Australian-born citizen, who is a member of the Australian Labor Party.

I share all of these characteristics with you.

Together we should work to alleviate the immense suffering caused to egregiously disadvantaged children and youth, mostly afflicted with at least one disability, and overwhelmingly Indigenous, who have been consigned to prison in Perth.

Some of these children have been transported 2,225kms from the Kimberley, with attendant additional dislocation and trauma.

The incidence of self-harm and suicide attempts, over the month since your Minister for Corrective Services, Bill Johnson, transferred these children from Banksia Hill (bad enough) to Casuarina, has been appalling and a State and National disgrace.

The children's desperate situation should tear at the heartstrings of every decent human being but particularly Australians, who should know better. Casuarina is an adult maximum security prison where, as recently as last month, an adult Indigenous prisoner died in custody, a former inmate of Banksia Hill.

The extent of the self- harm among the children transferred over the past month to Unit 18 is not trifling, exhibitionistic or merely mischievous.

These are just not stunts by delinquent children trying to draw attention to themselves. Å'R had to be administered to a child who was close to death.

Several others have been hospitalised.

Not a single beneficial program or service has been delivered to the children in Unit 18 since the transfer occurred.

Access to psychiatric assistance and legal help has been severely restricted if not denied, as have been family visits.

Children who seek to file complaints, watch as their complaints are ripped up before their eyes by YCO's or prison guards.

This letter is not written based upon hearsay or scuttlebutt.

We have corroborative audio evidence.

Premier, I entreat you to act now to address the present and future for our troubled and suffering children and youth.

The problem is not soluble just with money. It is not about the architecture of the prisons; it is about the architecture of the system.

While we know that you cannot do anything about what has already happened other than of a compensatory nature, you certainly have a grave responsibility to address the present and the future.

We entreat you to discharge that responsibility in the interest of human decency and also, in the national interest.

Stewart Levitt is a senior partner at Levitt Robinson and a solicitor for past and present Banksia Hill inmates.

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