The inspection into the Intensive Support Unit (ISU) at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre was triggered due to concerns we held about the welfare of detainees and staff after a turbulent period where critical incidents, including self-harm and attempted suicides, had increased. What we found was, unfortunately, similar to our previous work in this space – that young people in the ISU were often being held in conditions akin to solitary confinement and in breach of international human rights agreements. The conditions detainees experienced in the ISU were poor, fuelled by infrastructure challenges, staffing shortages, and the general volatility of the facility.
Of concern was a considerable increase in threats of self-harm, actual self-harming incidents, and attempted suicides in the latter part of 2021. These increased slowly throughout the year, peaking in September, October and November. It was distressing to hear young people speak of their anguish and frustration, and how they had formed a ‘suicide squad’ in response to the conditions they were enduring in the ISU. Our analysis found that the increase in self-harm incidents clearly coincided with decreased time out-of-cell.
In response to our report and the Show Cause Notice, the Department provided a detailed submission outlining the actions they were undertaking to address our concerns. This includes addressing staffing shortages, infrastructure improvements, and the ongoing development of a trauma-informed model of care. While supportive of these measures, we also stressed the importance of providing an additional non-custodial workforce to support the young people in the ISU.
The Department supported the two recommendations made in the report.