Behaviour management practices in youth custodial facilities have received national media attention following an ABC’s Four Corners program in July 2016 about the Northern Territory’s Don Dale Youth Detention Centre (Meldrum-Hanna, 2016). The following day the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was announced.
In September 2016 an independent inquiry was commissioned in Queensland to examine incidents in youth detention centres. New South Wales Juvenile Justice was then publicly exposed for underreporting the use of solitary confinement for youths in custody (Guardian Australia, 2016). Soon after, a Tasmanian report into the Ashley Youth Detention Centre became public, with allegations of ‘worrying behaviours’ by staff towards the centre’s young people (The Australian, 2016).
Quite independently, during 2016, we had become increasingly concerned at the growing instability of the Banksia Hill Detention Centre (‘Banksia Hill’). After a period of relative calm in 2015, 2016 saw a wave of self-harm and serious damage. We raised our concerns with the Department of Corrective Services and the then Minister, and also decided to bring forward this planned review of behaviour management practices.
Behaviour management in youth custody is a longstanding concern for us. Our 2011 inspection of Banksia Hill found that punishment was indistinguishable from practices which were supposed to allow personal development (OICS, 2012). We also found a disturbing lack of transparency and accountability in the use of restrictive practices.
In October 2012 the State’s two youth custodial facilities amalgamated into a single facility. Three months later there was a riot at Banksia Hill, with a large number of detainees escaping their cells and causing widespread damage. The then Minister directed us to review the incident, its causes and its aftermath. We made several recommendations, all of which were accepted by government.
As a result, the Department made several changes at Banksia Hill, including implementing individual behaviour management plans and a project to transform the facility. Our August 2014 inspection found some progress, but more was needed.
This review discusses behaviour management practices at Banksia Hill and the impact of the transformation project.