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Serious Ongoing Issues at Ashley Demand Recognition and Response

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 27 September 2023

Tags: Children and Young People, Commission of Inquiry, Child Abuse

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP | Greens Leader

The failure of the State Government – in particular the Minister for Children and Young People – to recognise and urgently respond to ongoing human rights abuses at Ashley Youth Detention Centre is appalling and must be immediately rectified.

The Commission of Inquiry Report unequivocally states the use of isolation practices at Ashley Youth Detention Centre is a violation of the human rights of children and young people. It highlights how departmental staff accepted this fact as early as 2016, and documents how the concerns raised in subsequent years by Children’s Commissioners, the Custodial Inspector, an independent investigation, and a United Nations committee have been ignored by the government.

About ‘restrictive practices’ the Commission says:

    “These practices are isolation by another name, are human rights abuses, and have the same     impact as other isolation practices on children’s health and wellbeing”.

Whatever words the Government chooses to use for isolation, the experience for children at Ashley is the same. And that experience is regular isolation – a clear breach of their human rights.

No wonder the Commission says it still has “grave concerns for the safety and wellbeing of detainees” and about the “live and current risk” at Ashley. The Commission also noted the government’s recent failure to respond to specific observations made by Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean about isolation practices at Ashley.

The government’s failure to properly respond to these serious issues is a reflection of the continued culture of secrecy and denial related to Ashley. This culture has underpinned the long-term issues at the Centre, and led to devastating harm to hundreds of children.

We saw this culture in action in real-time when questioning the Minister for Children in Parliament. Rather than accepting the Commission's findings of ongoing human rights abuses at AYDC, Roger Jaensch resorted to his modus operandi - obfuscation, denial, and making misleading statements.

After telling the House that Ashley will likely not close for “a couple of years”, the Minister tried to pretend this was in line with what the Commission has called for. In case there was any doubt about the Commission’s demands for urgency on the facility’s closure, they specifically stated they were “disappointed there are some indications the Tasmanian Government is reconsidering its previous announcement to close the Centre by 2024”.

Instead of ignoring the concerns of the Commission of Inquiry, the United Nations Committee on Torture, and the Commissioner for Children and Young People, we need to hear the Government and especially this Minister make a statement that shows they understand the serious and unacceptable harms occurring at Ashley right now.

Further, we again call on the Minister to outline a concrete timeline for Ashley’s closure that is in line with the expectations of the Commission of Inquiry.