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Leave to Suspend Standing Orders

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 25 March 2021

Tags: Ashley Youth Detention Centre

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens - Motion) - Madam Speaker, I seek leave to move a motion without notice for the purpose of moving for the suspension of the Standing Orders to debate the following motion:

That this House:

(1) Agrees that Ashley Youth Detention Centre is failing young people.

(2) Accepts the 2016 independent Noetic report into AYDC found it costs around $9 million a year to run and to house between six and 13 children, with 74 per cent of young people at Ashley ending up back in youth detention or in Risdon Prison and subsequently the report recommended closing Ashley.

(3) Notes with shame that under Minister Jaensch the Custodial Inspector's resources and systems inspection report of 2019 confirms that key training to respond to emotional, psychological and physical harm is not mandatory and not completed by all staff and that not every person contracted to work at the site has Working with Vulnerable People registration.

(4) Acknowledges the allegations of unsafe practices at AYDC raised by the Greens in parliament, including strip-searching detainees without modesty gowns, in contravention of departmental policy and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

(5) Understands that three people have been stood down from AYDC including one person on a serious allegation of a sexual act with a child.

(6) Notes that parliament has today heard there was an unreasonable delay in the report of suspected rape and that person being removed from the workplace, or investigated by police.

(7) Acknowledges with shame, the Liberals ignored the evidence and expert advice and kept Ashley open to shore up their vote in Lyons in the lead-up to the 2018 election.

(8) Calls on the Gutwein Government as a matter of urgency to establish therapeutic alternatives to Ashley and implement immediate interim measures, including robust independent oversight of Ashley Detention Centre until it is closed.

Madam Speaker, this is an urgent issue. For nearly 100 years Ashley has been a house of horrors for children and young people who end up in there. We know that. There has been a culture of abuse and cover-up at Ashley Youth Detention Centre. We come into this place to ask the minister a very straightforward and very serious question about how children and young people are being treated at Ashley, and about how reports of harm to children or historical allegations of rape are handled, whether or not they have been referred to police.

These are questions the minister should be able to answer. It defies belief that the minister has not being briefed on an historical rape allegation. It also defies belief that the minister has not been briefed on the reasons for those three staff being stood down. The minister needs to explain why it is that this most serious allegation of a potential rape of a child, which was reported to management at Ashley in January 2020 apparently was sat on for 10 months, and that staff member, who was the subject of that allegation was not stood down for 10 whole months.

That staff member was not stood down for 10 months, and we have a minister who can come into this place, not answer questions, not back away from his false statement that Ashley is a safe place, make no commitment to come back into this House in a timely way with that information, yet spend six and a half minutes on a Dorothy Dix question congratulating himself over two slow reforms to the child safety system. That is not how a Westminster parliament works.

The independent expert advice was that hellhole should close and that therapeutic alternatives should be established. The independent expert advice is that that place is harming young people. It is not providing therapeutic outcomes and they are leaving that place with three-quarters of them either returning to Ashley or ending up in the Risdon Prison.

But no, before the last state election in defiance of all the evidence, this minister and this Government decided to keep the Ashley Detention Centre open, that dysfunctional terrible place, which basically treats children and young people from a systemic point of view, who end up in youth justice as human garbage. If you are genuinely concerned about the wellbeing of young people, you close Ashley. If you want to give those kids a chance at a good life, you close Ashley and you establish therapeutic alternatives.

From the get-go of this minister all we have had is deflection, obfuscation, and denials of just how dangerous a place Ashley is. It is inexcusable. It was inexcusable to keep it open, it is inexcusable not to provide answers. I can reassure the minister, that keeps pointing to us, his department has all this information and of course, once the commission of inquiry is established, I am certain that further information about what happens to children and young people at Ashley will be provided to the commission of inquiry, as it should. But it exposes for the political scam that it is, the $7 million refurbishment of Ashley, $7 million on a place that is broken. On a place that is harming already harmed young people.

You cannot put lipstick on a pig. The experts tell us it has to close and it has to close.