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Ashley Youth Detention Centre Management Issues

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 March 2021

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - Mr Deputy Speaker, we have tried all day to get a straight answer out of the minister. We tried twice in question time, we tried during an urgency motion debate and, as I understand it, journalists at Mr Jaensch's press conference today also tried to get some straight answers out of the minister.

What Mr Jaensch did this morning in question time was avoid answering the question and pretend he did not know which specific allegations we were raising. I will go back briefly to the question that was asked without too much detail. The first question related to an historical rape allegation first raised with Ashley management in January 2020 and where the employee in question, the alleged potential child rapist, was not removed from AYDC as a staff member until November 2020. That is serious.

The minister pretended he did not know which circumstance we were talking about and it raises the question: how many alleged historical rapes were reported in January 2020 which led to an employee being stood down last November? There is only one. It is the same one we raised with the minister in budget Estimates last year.

We are accustomed in this place to hearing slippery language from government ministers. We have seen Mr Jaensch walk up to the lectern in this place and knowingly tell an untruth about a plan to make it easier to evict tenants through amendments to the Residential Tenancy Act. This minister has form. He pretended not to know which allegation I was talking about. Then he pretended again not to know about an incident at Ashley Youth Detention Centre reported in August 2019, which has become known, tragically, as the coke bottle incident. They are two specific allegations with two specific dates attached to them and we have this minister getting up to the lectern and pretending he does not know what the Greens are talking about.

Then at the media conference today he said in answer to a journalist's question:

Ms O'Connor made reference to certain incidents and time frames. It's very important we understand which actual cases and join those dots so we know which actual she's talking about.

The minister knew exactly which cases I was talking about and if he did not, he should not be administering his portfolio.

He also said, 'All of those cases, I am advised, were reported to police'. So from December last year in a statement to ABC we have a Tasmania Police spokeswoman confirming that, 'The force has not received a formal complaint related to any of the three staff members', and again today a statement from Tasmania Police media and communications says:

Tasmania Police has not received a formal complaint. However, we actively seek to engage with potential victims to formalise complaints. Tasmania Police encourages any victim or witness of criminal activity to make a formal report to police who will assess the information and progress the matter appropriately.

Mr Deputy Speaker, we are talking about some of the most vulnerable, damaged, traumatised children and young people in Tasmania. Because of the way the youth justice system works they are put into Ashley Youth Detention Centre, often on remand, and those kids are being brutalised. There has been a culture of cover-up at AYDC and the minister just reinforced it today. We got a series of generalities about it being common practice to refer matters to Tasmania Police. Were those matters referred to Tasmania Police? Not according to Tasmania Police as far as we can tell. So we had misrepresentation or playing dumb over the alleged events we brought to the minister's attention this morning and to the media in the lunch break from the minister.

Then we had misrepresenting the experts who pulled together the Noetic report into options for AYDC, where the minister pretended that there was any support at all for the refurbishment of Ashley. There were four recommendations made and the fourth and most strongly supported recommendation was for AYDC to be closed, for two therapeutic facilities to be established which would deliver much better outcomes to young people who go into AYDC, because as we know, about three-quarters of them either end up back in Ashley or in Risdon Prison. So we had misleading, at best, about that independent report from 2016.

Then we had the minister come in here and say that all those kids at Ashley have care plans. In March this year we had the report from the Inspection of Youth Custodial Services in Tasmania 2019 and the Ombudsman, who is the Youth Custodial Inspector for the purposes of this statutory requirement, said:

Discussions with staff indicate that the records of young people are current, confidential and accessible to relevant staff.

Having said this, the inspection audited a number of folders that had been created for new residents and the random sample reviewed were all empty folders. That is, there were no current assessments or plans in any of these resident files.