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Children’s Court president, Chief Justice probe Banksia Hill as staff 'catastrophe' fears loom

Giovanni Torre -

WA's Children's Court president Hylton Quail and Chief Justice Peter Quinlan have inspected Banksia Hill Detention Centre amid warnings of a looming staff "catastrophe" at the juvenile prison.

A spokesperson confirmed Mr Quail and Mr Quinlan inspected the prison and spoke with staff and detainees on Wednesday.

The visit follows comments by Mr Quail condemning conditions in the facility.

Advocates have warned of growing crises at the facility as tensions grow inside and COVID spreads in WA. It is claimed under 13 per cent of inmates are double vaccinated.

"I have heard potentially there are a number of youth custodial officers who will be resigning" - Megan Krakouer

Social Reinvestment WA campaign and coalition manager Sophie Stewart said conditions at Bankisa Hill continued to deteriorate.

"55 per cent of the kids in Banksia Hill last year had been imprisoned previously," she said.

"We are about to have a huge COVID outbreak in Western Australia and there will be even more staff shortages.

"If we don't act now, we are allowing these young people, some as young as ten years old, to continue to be locked in their cells for up to 22 hours a day."

Ms Stewart rejected suggestions that detainees aged 16 and over should be moved to adult facilities to alleviate pressure on Banksia Hill.

"The most appropriate thing would be to move all children under 14 out of juvenile detention immediately and give them appropriate supports in the community," she said.

"We have alternatives to juvenile detention that would uphold the human rights of these young people, keep the community safe, and avoid the catastrophe that is coming with Omicron."

Event MC, Megan Krakouer, speaking at the rally. Photo by Hannah Cross.

National Suicide Prevention and Trauma Recovery Project spokeswoman Megan Krakouer said tensions in the prison were leading to staff resignations.

"I have heard potentially there are a number of youth custodial officers who will be resigning," she said.

"The violence is increasing, the number of children hurting themselves is increasing.

"I spoke to a grandmother whose grandson is in there and he told her 'I can't do this anymore; I just want to end my life'.

"To bring in calmness and peace, increase the number of Aboriginal Visitor Scheme workers to provide support to the children in a nurturing capacity."

A Department of Justice spokesperson said 23 new probationary youth custodial officers would commence in March, with another 16 planned to begin in April.

"A recruitment campaign is underway with more entry level training Programs planned for May, July and September of this year... (which involve an) intensive focus on Aboriginal content," the spokesperson said.

"The curriculum contains multiple modules with content designed to equip YCOs to effectively deal with Aboriginal youth in detention."

The spokesperson said two Aboriginal visitors scheme staff were allocated to Banksia Hill Detention Centre and a scheme Elder also attended twice a week.

The spokesperson said all prisoners in WA have had opportunities to get vaccinated.

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