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Ashley Youth Detention Centre - Allegations of Abuse

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 March 2021

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre


Can you confirm an incident occurred at Ashley Youth Detention Centre in August 2019, which staff knew about as the 'coke bottle incident' where two detainees discussed the sexual abuse of another younger detainee with a coke bottle? We understand the Serious Event Review Team was alerted, as was Child Safety Services. Can you tell the House if the coke bottle incident was captured on Ashley's CCTV system? Can you confirm whether the matter was referred to police?

Do you know how many further incidents of this nature there have been at Ashley? How can you call Ashley Youth Detention Centre a safe place, as you have, and what has to occur there for you to step in and close down this house of horrors?



I thank the member for her question. There are two parts to that question and I will deal with them both.

First, in relation to a particular incident, I will seek the advice of my department regarding the specifics of the investigation of that particular incident. I again ask and trust that Ms O'Connor, or anyone with information that they believe has bearing on the safety and wellbeing of children in Ashley, or anywhere, would report it immediately on having it. That is most important.

While we are at it, I encourage anyone. We have received correspondence and it has been reported to us that members of staff or former detainees have contacted members of parliament, or sought to bring forward information. We want to hear that. We want information, any and all the information, that can help my department, the police, the commission of inquiry stitch together from those various accounts and pieces of information, a picture of what is going on. That is what this is about and I say to anyone out there who has information, feel safe, feel that your information is wanted, your witness and your evidence is important for us to be able to get to the bottom of these cases.

We want to hear from people, as much detail, as soon as possible -

Ms O'Connor - Your agency has the detail.

Mr JAENSCH - Not just sensational details that are saved up to be used in question time, Madam Speaker.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order. I take personal offence at that accusation. We are not here to be sensational. We are here to ask questions about the wellbeing of children who are imprisoned at Ashley. Withdraw it.

Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order but I do think it is valid. I would like the minister to withdraw it.

Mr JAENSCH - I am happy to withdraw, Madam Speaker. What is important is that anyone in possession of information that can go to the safety and wellbeing of children has an obligation under law to provide that information in full as soon as possible. When information is raised in this place, we will fully investigate every matter raised. When our department receives an allegation of historical abuse -

Members interjecting.

Madam SPEAKER - Order, please, I want to hear how long it takes for the minister to return the messages.

Mr JAENSCH - in relation to an employee, it provides the information to Tasmania Police. I will defer any decision until Tasmania Police provides advice regarding investigations in the allegation. The department also reports the matter to the registrar of working with vulnerable people, pursuant to the Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Act 2013.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, standing order 45, relevance. The minister is talking in procedural generalities to avoid answering the question. If he does not have the information now, could he commit to coming back into this parliament later today to answer the questions that have been asked about Ashley?

Madam SPEAKER - Minister, are you able to do that?

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, as I said at the outset, there were two elements to that question. One, was about a specific incident and I have undertaken to seek further advice from my department. The second was about whether I believe that Ashley is a safe place for young people to be. To respond to Ms O'Connor's call for Ashley to be closed, I now intend to address that as part of answering her question.

Sadly, in Tasmania we will always need a youth detention facility. As long as courts are sentencing that very small number of young people who commit crimes to custodial terms, we will need a facility that can receive them. Our Government is investing significantly, both in the redesign and redevelopment of the facilities at Ashley, but also the culture, the training and the therapeutic processes of care and the model of care for the people in there. If you look at the Custodial Inspector's most recent media releases, if you speak to -

Ms O'Connor - You do not want to talk about the abuse of the 12-year-old child in Ashley.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, may I finish? If you speak to the Commissioner for Children and Young People, if you speak to staff who work in that facility, they all refer to the changing culture at Ashley, the new therapeutic approach, and they are very positive about the changes -

Ms O'Connor - They do not. You are very selective -

Madam SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor.

Mr JAENSCH - They are positive about the changes that are under way. I thank them for the work that they do. It is difficult, important work, and somebody needs to do it while we still have courts sentencing young people.

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Madam Speaker, given the significant public interest in this issue, could the minister tell the House when he will be back in here today with some detail about those questions?

Madam SPEAKER - As you know under standing orders, I cannot instruct the minister as to what he is going to say and also, I think he has already gone over his time allowance.

Ms O'Connor - He is not answering the question.

Madam SPEAKER - I do not have that power unfortunately.

Ms O'Connor - The minister could tell us when he will bring that information back to the House. It is supposed to be at your earliest opportunity. Remember we are in a Westminster parliament.

Mr JAENSCH - Madam Speaker, as I said, I will review the detail of the question and I will seek more advice from my department.