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Aboriginal Legal Service of WA to fight youth detention lockdowns in Supreme Court

Giovanni Torre -

The Supreme Court of Western Australia will hold an urgent hearing Thursday, 8 December, to hear applications from the Aboriginal Legal Service of WA for habeas corpus and judicial review in relation to ongoing lockdowns at Banksia Hill Detention Centre and Unit 18, Casuarina Prison.

ALSWA filed the applications on Tuesday.

The court action follows the declaration made by Justice Tottle on 25 August this year that the confinement of ALSWA's client, a 14-year-old boy at the time, to his cell for more than 20 hours a day at Banksia Hill on 26 different occarions across just four months in early 2022 was unlawful.

ALSWA represents three young people who are bringing the new action. The Legal Service is also assisting a number of young people with complaints about the conditions at Banksia Hill and Unit 18.

The three young people have instructed ALSWA they have experienced ongoing lockdowns since Justice Tottle declared locking children in their cells for over 20 hours per day to be unlawful on 25 August.

The three youths have advised ALSWA that their mental health has deteriorated and they have been increasingly distressed leading to self-harm and suicide attempts due to ongoing lockdowns.

The young people have also complained of excessive use of force and verbal abuse from Youth Custodial Officers and Prison Officers.

ALSWA's Director of Legal Services Peter Collins said the Service's repeated attempts to raise its concerns with the WA government about conditions in youth detention "continue to fall on deaf ears".

"The breathtaking failure by the government to respect Justice Tottle's decision and its continued treatment of young people in a cruel, inhuman and degrading way is a blight on WA and needs to immediately cease," he said.

"It requires little to realise that locking a young person in a tiny cell with no television, radio, fresh air or human interaction for days on end, with all the boredom and resentment that inevitably engenders, is never going to get a result, will do nothing to change young lives for the better and will not make the community safer in the long term.

"The government needs to abandon its tone deaf arrogant mindset that it has all the answers and that those advocating for a different approach are doe eyed activists and use this debacle as an opportunity to move from a failed punitive punishment model designed to crush young people and immediately embrace and resource an holistic culturally-appropriate and trauma-informed therapeutic model of care for young people in detention."

On Wednesday 7 December a class action brought by hundreds of current and former Banksia Hill detainees commenced in the federal court.

Story Updated 8 December: At the Supreme Court hearing on Thursday afternoon matters were adjourned until 11.30am on Wednesday 14 December.

The parties to the action are going to confer in relation to an interlocutory injunction to ensure the young people are not unlawfully confined while ALSWA arranges a time for the hearing to be listed.


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