• Banksia Hill has been unstable and high risk for many years.
  • Youth custodial services are extremely challenging, as reflected throughout Australia over the past few years.
  • The approach to managing young people in custody needs to be clear and well communicated at all levels of the organisation. This has not been the case in Western Australia. The Department of Corrective Services has failed to implement an operational philosophy for youth custodial services.
  • Executive and senior management leadership has been highly changeable. There has been no consistent approach to managing young people in custody.
  • Throughout 2016 and early-2017, Banksia Hill was particularly volatile. Critical incidents occurred with growing frequency, including assaults on staff, rooftop incidents, and extensive damage to the centre. In early May 2017, two extremely serious incidents took place on consecutive days.
  • In response, an experienced superintendent from the adult custodial system was placed in charge of the centre, and several other adult custodial officers were stationed at Banksia Hill to provide additional guidance and support.
  • In 2017, we found Banksia Hill in much the same situation as in 2014 – recovering from a major incident.
  • The frequency and scale of incidents had caused many in the centre to feel unsafe, both staff and young people.
  • Many custodial officers had multiple experiences of trauma dating back to the 2013 riot and earlier, and they had been affected by the violent and destructive incidents in the preceding 18 months.
  • The vast majority of young people had not been involved in any of the incidents. Many felt unsafe during the incidents. They also felt unfairly punished by restrictions that were introduced in response to the incidents.
  • Following the May incidents, the centre operated under a tightly-controlled and restrictive regime. This reduced young people’s freedom and movement around the site, and limited their involvement in activities.
  • The centre had identified a small number of boys who were considered to be high risk. This was based on their personal involvement in serious incidents, and their ability to influence other young people to take part in serious incidents. Banksia Hill management had decided to separate them from the main population by housing them in Harding Unit, which was renamed the Intensive Support Unit (ISU).
  • We held some concerns about the restrictive regime for young people at Banksia Hill, and particularly those placed in the ISU. We have been in dialogue with the Department on this issue since mid-2017, and we have observed significant improvements since then.
  • Education has been one of the biggest casualties of ongoing instability and lack of strategic direction. Education services delivered at Banksia Hill did not meet community standards. The school is poorly resourced and understaffed. Young people in custody should not be receiving a lower standard of education than young people in the community. In fact, they have higher educational needs.
  • If significant progress is not achieved over the next three years, a fundamental reappraisal of service delivery options and methods will be necessary. At that point, serious consideration would need to be given to transferring responsibility for education at Banksia Hill to the Department of Education.
  • In the 2014 inspection report, we highlighted the inadequacy of crisis care facilities. In 2017, there had been no progress. We reiterate the need to develop a crisis care unit where young people who cannot be managed in an ordinary unit can be kept safe.
  • The need for a crisis care unit is one symptom of the increasing complexity of the Banksia Hill population. No other jurisdiction in Australia houses all young people in one facility – boys and girls, sentenced and unsentenced, from 10–18 years old and beyond, and from all regions.
Page last updated: April 17, 2018
116: Inspection of Banksia Hill Detention Centre