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Youth detention centre where Cleveland Dodd fatally self-harmed set to close

Aaron Bunch -

The West Australian government will shutter a high-security youth wing at an adult prison where an Indigenous teenager recently died from self-inflicted injury.

Premier Roger Cook says a new facility to replace Unit 18 at Casuarina Prison will be built alongside Perth's Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre.

"Unit 18 will eventually close in a safe and sensible manner, which is what I've long been saying I want to see happen," he told reporters on Thursday.

"The new facility will be specifically designed to meet high security and therapeutic needs of detainees who are complex, challenging and often dangerous."

A recently completed Youth Justice Infrastructure Review found Banksia Hill could not safely and securely accommodate the 20 or so high-risk prisoners currently held at Casuarina Prison.

Mr Cook said the proposed two-site model would allow challenging youths currently being held in Unit 18 to be provided with high levels of support.

Supporters rallied in Perth last month, following the death of Unit 18 detainee Cleveland Dodd. (Aaron Bunch/AAP PHOTOS)

Banksia Hill staff will focus on providing the more stable youths held there with therapeutic interventions and education.

A plan and business case is yet to be developed for the new facility and there is no scheduled opening date.

"Everyone wants to see the closure of Unit 18 ... (but) I want to be clear that while the new facility will allow us to shut Unit 18 it won't happen overnight," Mr Cook said.

Unit 18 custodial officers discovered 16-year-old Cleveland Dodd unresponsive in his cell in the early hours of October 12.

He was taken to hospital in a critical condition, where he later died, causing outrage and grief in the community.

Mr Cook said $77.1 million had been budgeted to improve staffing, facilities and services in WA's youth justice system.

This includes $34.2 million to boost staffing levels at Banksia Hill and Unit 18 and $8.2 million to fund upgrades to programs and services such as Aboriginal health services and foetal alcohol syndrome disorder training.

He also said the troubled Banksia Hill facility had dramatically improved since a riot in May caused about $30 million damage.

The amount of time detainees spend outside their cells has increased to about nine hours per day and assaults on staff have dropped to 39 per cent, with critical incidents falling to 21 per cent compared to the first half of the year.

"Young people are also now supported by a multidisciplinary team of child special health specialists and an eight-person Aboriginal services unit ... and additional Aboriginal mentors to provide further support," he said.

"So we've achieved this by making Banksia Hill safe, enabling the facility to return to normal conditions, something that we have not seen for a number of years."

The Justice Reform Initiative said the youth justice system needed an overhaul and urged the government to review its intervention strategies for children and young people before building the new facility.

"A new building is not the same as a new approach," executive director Mindy Sotiri said.

The problems at Banksia Hill have been clear for decades, she said, and the pledge for a new maximum security facility next door "does not address the over-use of harmful incarceration" of children there.

The union for custodial officers, The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association, described the pledge to build a new detention facility and funding boost as a potential reset for youth justice in WA.

But it said a timeline for the project was needed.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

Aaron Bunch - AAP


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