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McGowan under pressure to reform juvenile detention system as calls for change grow

Jarred Cross -

The Western Australian government is under pressure to bring about substantial change to its juvenile detention system following waves of outrage from the public and many prominent voices.

Footage from inside Perth's Banksia Hill detention centre on ABC's Four Corners earlier in the week showed a boy being restrained by a number of staff officers using the intensive technique known as 'folding up', described by some as just a glimpse of what is regularly endured by young offenders in the system.

The massive overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth in the system also continues to cause concern.

"What we saw on Four Corners last night is deeply disturbing," Federal Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney tweeted on Tuesday.

"As a community we have to do better when it comes to the treatment of children and young people in detention.

"That so many young First Nations people end up in custody is a national shame.

"The Commonwealth is working with states and territories on raising the age of criminal responsibility and we are working to make justice reinvestment a reality."

Labor senator of Western Australia Pat Dodson tweeted "enough is enough".

"Our young people have become our greatest contemporary casualty," he said.

"In 2016, Four Corners revealed the horrors of Don Dale. In 2022, we witness disturbing scenes from Banksia Hill.

"Enough is enough. We must find ways to care for our young people and protect them from violence."

Raising the age of criminal responsibility has long been pointed towards as a beneficial measure.

Former president of the WA Children's Court Denis Reynolds has reportedly called for a royal commission into the state's juvenile justice system painting the current situation as causing examples of "child abuse".

It adds to a chorus of outcry from those in similar positions.

There are increasing calls for regionally focused set-ups keeping kids on-Country and better placed within structures equipped to provide levels of cultural safety.

While WA Premier Mark McGowan has announced a meeting of stakeholders including the police commissioner, corrective services minister and the state's Commissioner for Children and Young People, he has rejected calls for a Royal Commission.

"(To) have more and more and more inquiries, I think the public is sick of it," he said.


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