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Ashley Youth Detention Centre - Custodial Inspector's Report

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 19 October 2023

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre, Commission of Inquiry


Seventeen reports since 2003 have all found Ashley Youth Detention Centre traumatises and harms young people. The Custodial Inspector's report yesterday makes one more. He said lockdowns have not been observed there before on a systemic level but what has happened in the last year sets a disturbing precedent. The practice of solitary confinement was also called out by the UN reporter earlier this year. The commission of inquiry was unambiguous in their finding that there is a live and current risk of child sexual abuse at Ashley and restrictive practices that are unjustifiable human rights abuses.

You have given your word to Tasmanians that you will implement the inquiry's recommendations, and top of the commissioners' list was to close Ashley. Yesterday your minister for Children and Youth misrepresented the commission's report and justified the harms to children being locked down. He does not accept the reality of ongoing abuses and is not acting to close the centre. Will you step in to remove him from his portfolio and work yourself with social and justice organisations to get those children into safe care now?

Mr SPEAKER - The member's time has expired.



Mr Speaker, I acknowledge the question, or the preamble to the final question, of the member and the Custodial Inspector's annual report 2022-23, which I will come to in a moment.

The first thing I will say is that I have absolute confidence in our minister for his very solid and diligent work under very difficult circumstances over a number of years with respect to that portfolio.

I repeat, there is no greater priority for our Tasmanian Government than the safety of children and young people. It was this Government that committed to the commission of inquiry, of which much of that focus was on the Ashley Youth Detention Centre. We remain steadfast in our commitment to close the Ashley Youth Detention Centre as soon as possible and implementing all of the commission of inquiry's recommendations. Any inference that the Government will not implement those recommendations is deceitful, wrong and misleading.

Dr Woodruff - But you're not doing anything - he's not doing anything.

Mr SPEAKER - Leader of the Greens, order.

Mr ROCKLIFF - I thank the Custodial Inspector for the continued dedication and strong independent oversight provided by the Office of the Custodial Inspector for young people at Ashley Youth Detention Centre. We are committed to developing a youth justice system that achieves better outcomes for young people and their families and keeps our community safe.

Dr Woodruff - What about today?

Mr ROCKLIFF - We are continuing to progress our plan to close the AYDC and transition to new youth justice facilities as part of our comprehensive reform of the entire youth justice system. The commission of inquiry, in its report, acknowledged the challenges in terms of the time frame around closing the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, albeit clearly the commission of inquiry said it must be closed, and it will be as soon as possible. That is exactly what we are doing now, but also -

Dr Woodruff - What about working to get them out today?

Mr SPEAKER - Order. Leader of the Greens, that is the fourth time you have interrupted the Premier answering the question. There is an old saying about biting your lip. If you cannot achieve, I will ask you to leave.

Mr ROCKLIFF - As part of our interim response to the commission of inquiry report, and the continued reforms and investment we are putting into Ashley to keep children safe and the community safe as well, it has been evident over the course of discussions since the report was tabled in this place on 26 September, so I am very mindful of the need to act as quickly as possible, but I am also very mindful that there is a community safety issue here. It is not as simple as you might put forward, Dr Woodruff. It is the safety, of course, of the youth and also the safety of the community of which we need to be very mindful.

I commend our minister for what is a comprehensive youth justice reform blueprint, which includes the new Pontville site, higher security and therapeutic reform and care in that area as well but also, more broadly, across the state.

Mr SPEAKER - Premier, your time has expired.