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Ashley Youth Detention Centre - Alternative Sites

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Tuesday, 23 August 2022

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Commission of Inquiry


It is almost exactly a year ago since it was announced Ashley Youth Detention Centre would close. While Amnesty International and UNICEF Australia are calling for Ashley to close immediately, we are worried you have been dithering again. Can you tell the House whether the two sites have been identified, designs for the two facilities are finalised and tenders are being prepared for construction and service delivery? We did not get an answer out of the Premier, so can you tell us? Will the new model be in place within two years, as Tasmanians were promised?



Mr Speaker, I thank the Leader of the Greens for her question. As the Premier referred in his answer to your similar question -

Ms O'Connor - No, it's a very different question.

Mr JAENSCH - we remain committed to our decision to close Ashley and establish new purpose-built facilities.

Ms O'Connor - But you've done nothing for a year; that's the evidence that came from the inquiry.

Mr SPEAKER - Order, Ms O'Connor, you have asked the question so allow the minister to answer it, please.

Mr JAENSCH - Importantly, the Premier said that this is not about postcodes and bricks and mortar. It is about the young people who our courts determine for their care and rehabilitation, and for the safety of the community -

Ms O'CONNOR - Point of order, Mr Speaker, standing order 45, relevance. The question asked if sites had been identified, tenders issued, or designs finalised? We want an update.

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, standing order 45 is not an opportunity to re-ask the question. The minister had only been going for 30 seconds so I do not expect standing order 45 to be used until the minister has at least half-completed his question. Minister, please continue.

Mr JAENSCH - Thank you. I believe Ms O'Connor also agrees that the most important thing is that we are providing the right environments and care model for the young people who find themselves -

Ms O'Connor - It is not.

Mr JAENSCH - That is not the most important thing to you?

Ms O'Connor - No. Ashley is not the right place.

Mr JAENSCH - So, we agree that the Ashley Youth Detention Centre is no longer the right place for us long term as a youth justice custodial facility. That is why we have committed to closing Ashley and moving to new facilities.

The Premier outlined a range of safeguarding provisions made to ensure that the Ashley of today, where we have young people in detention, is a different place to the Ashley that we had before.

Ms O'Connor - Are you going to answer the question?

Mr SPEAKER - Ms O'Connor, if you are not prepared to listen to the answer I will ask you to leave. You have put the question to the minister. Please allow him to answer it and stop interjecting.

Mr JAENSCH - I am going to attempt to go through some of the steps we have taken to answer Ms O'Connor's question.

We have now appointed a chair of our Youth Justice Reform Steering Committee and a new executive director to lead our youth justice reform team. Shan Tennant will be our independent chair of the Youth Justice Reform Steering Committee, and Chris Simcock has been appointed to lead the youth justice reform process.

There has been considerable work done on the youth justice reform process to date. Following the release of our Youth Justice Blueprint discussion paper, a comprehensive consultation process has been undertaken with a broad range of stakeholders. This includes young people who are themselves currently involved with the youth justice system and their advocates. We have also engaged closely with the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Custodial Inspector, who have particular statutory roles and functions relating to youth justice. These consultations are now informing the finalisation of the blueprint that will set the strategic directions for the whole system over the next 10 years.

Regarding the transition to new facilities, the Noetic Group has been engaged to undertake an options brief for new facilities, which includes an analysis of Tasmanian data, consultation with Tasmanian stakeholders and a review of best-practice approaches from around the world.

We have taken additional time to work with Noetic to consider how alternatives to detention raised through our blueprint consultation might also impact on our detention population and, therefore, the design of our future facilities. We want to make the most of this once in-a-generation opportunity to design and deliver new custodial facilities while also reforming the youth justice system as a whole.

We have a unique opportunity in terms of our population of young people in detention and I remind you that in 2021 we had the equal-lowest rate of young people in detention, with the number of people in detention on an average day at 9.4 per cent. However, we know that 71 per cent of young people in custody in 2021 were awaiting the outcome of their court matter and a number of these people did not go on to receive sentences of detention. We are currently considering how we can provide more alternatives to detention, particularly for those young people who are currently remanded in custody awaiting the outcome of their court matter but do not go on to receive sentences of detention.

We are looking at bail and accommodation support options, and new community-based sentencing options. We have already committed to raising the minimum age of detention from 10 years to 14 years. We are also considering options for co-location of detention facilities and other related youth services such as alcohol and drug treatment, and mental health support.

These and other factors will impact on the size and site requirements, and design of the custodial facilities we build. Form should follow function. We are taking this opportunity not just to decant Ashley into two smaller buildings in different postcodes. We are taking this opportunity to fundamentally redesign the custodial elements of our youth justice system for the very small number of people they are required to serve and to increase the number of alternative secure accommodation and other service provision facilities within that system.

Mr SPEAKER - If you could wind up, please, minister.

Mr JAENSCH - These things are worth investigating and getting right. We have a policy position and a deadline. We have made no change to that. We are working thoroughly to ensure that the product we come out with is more than just closing a building. It is about providing the care, the therapeutic through-care that the young people who are sentenced by courts to a custodial sentence need and deserve if they are to have their best chance at a productive life.