Jobs Events Advertise

WA's youth justice crisis - a failure of leadership

Guest Author -

It is with great disappointment that I am writing this opinion piece about the treatment of children in Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia.

I am shocked, dismayed and perplexed at how WA Premier Mark McGowan and Minister Bill Johnston have side-stepped their responsibility as leaders regarding the treatment of children in Banksia Hill.

Real leaders acknowledge problems and take full responsibility for their actions and inaction.

The absolutely pathetic explanations from Minister Johnston that he did not know his Department of Justice staff were using the hog tie method to restrain children, a methodology which is banned in every State and Territory in Australia defies belief.

His defensive attitude when informed that children were being locked up for 23 hours a day and hogtied, says a lot about his level of concern for Indigenous children.

Premier Mark McGown built a reputation during covid on trust and care to keep us all safe. Luckily the majority of us are over the age of 17 years, because it is apparent the Premier McGown doesn't care about keeping children safe and is happy to describe conditions in Banksia as more akin to kids spending time at a holiday resort than a children's prison which is attracting world-wide condemnation.

The treatment of Indigenous kids inside Banksia Hill is inhumane.

10 Banksia Hill Detention Centre staff are currently under investigation for using excessive force including the "folding up" hog tie restraint.

37 incidents of self-harm, including one suicide attempt, occurred at Banksia Hill in just one month â€" July this year.

Nine out of ten of the children in juvenile detention in WA have cognitive impairments or neuro-disabilities.

Children are held in their cell at least 20 hours a day in lockdowns. One 14 year-old boy was locked in his cell for over 20 hours a day on 26 occasions across four months in the first half of this year, which was found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court.

I recently received recognition as a distinguished alumni from Murdoch University in part because of my involvement in fighting for social justice for Aboriginal people during my career.

I am trying to create a positive impact on the lives of Aboriginal people who didn't have a voice. The news of the treatment of children at Banksia detention Centre has left me thinking I live in a barbaric state that deliberately chooses to not rehabilitate kids.

Instead, it tortures them mentally and physically and then wonders why significant numbers of them end up being hardened criminals. The government has no one to blame but itself.

The government's complicit stance in defending this treatment of children is horrendous. I cannot understand how they can put their heads in the sand and close their eyes and ears.

Why are we the taxpayers funding government departments, when the justice system turns these children into unproductive and damaged members of the community?

In the words of the Children's Court President Hylton Quail, this approach by the state government is "cruel", "barbaric" and "a form of child abuses".

Yet Premier Mark McGowan and the Minister Bill Johnston turn a blind eye to it, instead justifying their viewpoint by speaking half-truths.

The facts are these children are leaving prison more traumatised than when they went in. They are being treated like wild animals. In fact, the government would probably look after wild animals better than these children in custody.

In the name of justice and common decency, Department heads must roll, there needs to be a complete overhaul of Corrective Services and Department of Justice. Clearly, they are not doing their job.

The Don Dale Royal Commission recently examined the shocking mistreatment of youth in detention in the Northern Territory. It clearly exposed that our young children were being treated inhumanely while in custody.

Western Australia is just as bad in its treatment of detained youth and the WA government don't give a damn about kids in prison.

Premier McGowan recently acknowledged that many of these children in custody had traumatised childhoods and had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which reinforces that Labor are very aware of the issues and needs of these youth.

Yet many of these youth are being locked up in isolation for days on end.

No human being should be kept in isolation let alone a child. The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty also explicitly prohibits solitary confinement of children.

For complete transparency there has to be a Royal Commission independent of the state government because we cannot trust them.

Wayne Bergmann is the co-owner of the National Indigenous Times


Staying grounded while reaching for the stars
Beach blonde hair paired with a sun-kissed glow and a charming down-to-earth personality, few would argue that Billie Jean Hamle...
Phoebe Blogg 27 Feb 2024
Cultural awakening fuels passion to revive Indigenous language
A stirring lecture theatre speech in his native language by a legendary Indigenous leader was the fuel that fired Clint Bracknel...
David Prestipino 27 Feb 2024
Bishop accused of sex offences against Indigenous youth arrested in Broome
The former bishop of Broome has been arrested at his home over alleged historical sex offences against Indigenous youth and chil...
Dechlan Brennan 21 Feb 2024
The power of culture in the Kimberley to turn around young lives
Walmajarri man Peter Murray has a vision: he wants to see Kimberley communities that are crime free, culturally connected, proud...
Dianne Bortoletto 19 Feb 2024

   Guest Author   

Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service urges parties to back justice reforms in State Election
Victoria’s Aboriginal Legal Service has called on parties and candidates in the Victorian state election to embrace a suite of r...
Guest Author 16 Nov 2022
WA's youth justice crisis - a failure of leadership
It is with great disappointment that I am writing this opinion piece about the treatment of children in Banksia Hill Detention C...
Guest Author 16 Nov 2022
Traditional Owners should be able to speak for their own country - Mundine
Go out on country and get the consent of Traditional Owners: that’s the message government sends companies on major projects. Bu...
Guest Author 13 Nov 2022
Education plea ahead of Indigenous voice referendum
An architect of the Uluru Statement from the Heart has pleaded with Australians to educate themselves ahead of a referendum on e...
Guest Author 9 Nov 2022