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‘You’ve known about staffing problems’: Disability royal commission lashes Banksia Hill excuses

Western Australia’s Department of Justice knew about but failed to address staffing problems at Banksia Hill Detention Centre for more than a decade.

This was a key finding in the disability royal commission’s final report handed down on Friday, which dedicated an entire chapter to the centre’s failings in managing detainees with disabilities.

Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

Banksia Hill Detention Centre.Credit: File photo/Michael O’Brien

Then-premier Mark McGowan took a hardline stance against detainees involved in riots and damage at the state’s only youth detention facility, but the recommendations contained in Friday’s report will heap pressure on the government to soften its approach.

The commission left its most scathing criticism for the Department of Justice, after it said lockdowns and confinement were necessary to help Banksia Hill deal with staff shortages.

“Banksia Hill has a consistent history of staff shortages leading to excessive cell lockdowns,” the report said.


“In our view, the failure of the department and Corrective Services over many years to adequately staff the detention centre has been an important factor in the decisions to impose rolling lockdowns.

“The department has known about and tolerated the conditions that led to this situation for many years. Of particular concern is that, if the state government allocated more resources for staffing, it would have had less restrictive options available to it than solitary confinement.”

The report recommended the centre immediately stop using solitary confinement in favour of therapeutic and non-punitive operating philosophy and urged the WA government to legislate a ban against the practice.

“Solitary confinement can have severe, long-term and irreversible effects on a child’s health and wellbeing, including their physical and psychological health and social and educational development.”


The commission recommended the department immediately review its staffing and recruitment model to understand Banksia Hill’s high attrition rate, promote Indigenous and people with disabilities to management levels, and provide better mental health support to staff.

The commission wants solitary confinement – which it described as “the enforced isolation or segregation for any purpose of a child or young person for 22 or more hours in any day” – banned across the country.

In addition, it also wanted the use of isolation of detainees as punishment banned.

“Inadequate staffing of a detention centre is never a justification to impose solitary confinement
on any child, particularly a child with disability,” the report said.

“The state’s duty of care to children in detention entails adequately staffing its detention centres to discharge that duty.”

WA Corrective Services Minister Paul Papalia and the Department of Justice were contacted for comment.

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