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Fires, mass police presence at Banksia Hill as almost 50 detainees riot at youth prison

Giovanni Torre and AAP -

Western Australia's Department of Justice is responding to a major disturbance at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre involving almost 50 juvenile detainees.

Inmates began surrendering to staff Wednesday morning after police were called in to quell a major disturbance involving dozens of juveniles at Banksia Hill Detention Centre south of Perth.

A number of detainees breached their cells about 8.30pm on Tuesday and gained access to the grounds of the facility before climbing onto the roof.

They lit fires in several accommodation blocks and caused extensive damage, authorities say.

Corrective Services Special Operations Group were being supported in trying to contain the incident by a large police contingent including the Regional Operations Group, Polair and the K9 Unit, a Department of Justice spokeswoman said on Wednesday morning.

"Some of the detainees on the centre's roof structures have begun surrendering to staff but the incident is still ongoing," she said.

"The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has extinguished the fires and is continuing to monitor the infrastructure."

The department said earlier that attempts to negotiate with the detainees were continuing and a number remained on the roof, throwing projectiles.

Others were trying to obstruct access to firefighters working to extinguish the blazes.

Significant damage has been caused across the site over several hours although there have been no reported injuries.

The Department of Justice says some 47 detainees have been involved in the violence with others moved to a secure area, remaining under staff supervision.

Banksia Hill is a juvenile facility for offenders aged 10-17 years.

On New Year's Eve specialist police and fire fighters were called to the detention centre after children lit a fire and climbed onto the roof.

A guard suffered a suspected fractured skull after being hit by objects allegedly thrown by detainees at Banksia Hill in February after seven climbed fences and rooftops after absconding from activities outside their cells and allegedly ripped pieces of masonry and metal off the facilities and threw them at youth custodial officers, four of whom were injured.

The February incident came shortly after the Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia condemned the state government for the ongoing use of lockdowns in the youth prison, despite a Supreme Court ruling against the tactic last August.

In April former Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney was appointed to put into effect a new model of care for children at Banksia Hill.

Earlier this month leaked emails revealed a mental health care crisis within Unit 18, the stand-alone unit at Casuarina adult prison to which a group of Banksia Hill inmates were transferred to ostensible reduce tensions at Banksia Hill.

Update

At 12.22pm on Wednesday the WA Department of Justice announced that "the final group of detainees involved in a major disturbance at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre have now been brought down from the facility's rooftop".

"Staff are working to return the Detention Centre to normal operations, after around 47 detainees breached their cells just after 8:30 last night.

"The detainees moved around the grounds and onto the roof of the centre, lighting fires and causing extensive damage.

"Corrective Services' Special Operations Group was supported by a large police contingent, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and St John Ambulance. Assessment of the damage is underway, but a large number of buildings and other infrastructure has been impacted.

"There were no injuries to staff or detainees. Those not involved in the overnight violence were moved to a secure area and remained under staff supervision.

"Some detainees have now been moved to Unit 18 for safety and those responsible for the damage and fires will likely face police charges."

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