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Ashley Youth Detention Centre

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 25 August 2022

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Commission of Inquiry

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Speaker, we brought this matter of public importance on today about Ashley because, like many Tasmanians, we have been watching the very harrowing testimony at the commission of inquiry for a number of months. It has detailed the shocking harms that have been wrought on young people at Ashley Youth Detention Centre. It has outlined brutal physical and sexual assaults and oppressive treatment by guards. It has clearly shown there has been a pattern of mismanagement and cover-ups over reported abuse and harm to children over many decades, including recently.

We welcome this Government's agreement to close Ashley. It is something the Greens, many people in Tasmania and past children's commissioners have been calling for. We welcome that.

We have been concerned this week and have questioned the minister about the time line for the closure. It is meant to be in two years time. We are concerned as there is a serious mismatch between the minister's stated assurances that things are different in Ashley now and what we are hearing.

We heard evidence from Alysha this week that there are now 11 young people in Ashley in and out of isolation; 10 of those children are on remand. Only one has been sentenced. The youngest of those is 11, and 10 other young people, none of whom, except for one, has been sentenced with anything. There are only four staff to deal with children who have serious trauma and serious need for support. Enormous therapeutic support is required.

The minister said they will wrap support around Ashley until something better exists. It is not matched by the reality. As a parent who is parenting young people, I know the sort of support young people and children need, when they are in extreme distress. An 11-year-old who does not have their parents with them, who suffered in all probability enormous abuse, possibly from when they were born, to have them in a facility in and out of isolation with four adults in charge and 10 other young severely traumatised people around them, is horrifying. It makes me feel sick as a parent, on behalf of those young people and on behalf of all the victims/survivors who have survived the torture of being in Ashley.

We are more than concerned that the minister has no idea about the reality of being needed to be cared for in that situation. He said that Ashley is the worst but the best option the Government has for young offenders.

The minister is seriously failing to have an imagination about this. If you asked any person in Tasmania, 'If you had the resources of the state, if you had the millions of dollars that will go to Ashley Youth Detention Centre for the next two years and you have 11 young people, one of them an 11-year-old, what would you do to support them? How much money would it take?' I am not an expert but it is reasonably obvious, you could get 10 houses and you could get two highly trained adults in each house and they would have one child and there would be other appropriate safeguards for the children and there could be one-on-one intensive support.

You might find that some of the children are better placed together, not separately, three might be better than two. You would workshop that with a child, you would have trauma support, you would have psychological support and you would have the possibility for an education, a direct home-schooling education. Would that not be wonderful? How much would that cost? I do not know, but it is nothing compared to the reality of what we are pouring into a facility with guards and fences and solid walls and isolation cells for children. This is the best the minister can do.

He said the Government would act on alternative options if they exist. They do exist, minister, you just choose not to employ them. You choose to have the situation as it is and to go on and talk about plans for therapeutic models as though we have a future where we can just push this off, but today there are 11 children in Ashley and you, minister, are responsible and you are failing them. It is on your head that there are only four adults to look after 11 children.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People said we are at an all time low in terms of staff that are available to work on the floor. We have concerns about the Commissioner for Children and Young People taking so long. It is good she has made the statement that Ashley should close. We do not understand why it came after the Government made the announcement but we are very happy. It was after the National Children's Commissioner made their statement, but we are happy that it has happened, albeit belated, and we would expect to have some pretty strong statements for those children over the next few years.