The riot at the Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre on 20 January 2013 resulted in considerable debate in government, the media and the non-government sector about youth justice services in Western Australia. As boys made up the majority of those who participated and were impacted by the riot, most attention focussed here. This report aimed to assess the ‘state of play’ with respect to incarcerated girls and to promote further debate and focus.
The Yeeda Unit at Banksia was intended to provide the opportunity for innovation and improved services and outcomes for girls. The overall conclusion was that there was some progress but that a good deal remained to be done. To some degree the shortfalls reflected the ‘backwash’ from the riot.
First, although the girls were only peripherally involved, the incident had a profound effect on all detainees and staff and hindered the roll out of a ‘new way of doing business’. Secondly, for a good deal of the period from February to October 2013, boys under 14 years of age were being accommodated in Yeeda along with the girls after the riot.
The opening of Wandoo saw a commitment to a new prison with a focus on reducing recidivism amongst young male adults aged 18 to 24. However, there are no dedicated facilities for young women in our prisons. It may be time for some lateral thinking if the state’s current custodial resources are to be used to best effect. The women’s prison estate is overcrowded and under considerable stress. The small number of female juveniles also creates problems for service delivery as there is not always a sufficient ‘critical mass’ and there is a rapid turnover. This report therefore recommends that consideration be given to whether some young adult females could be safely and sensibly placed at the Yeeda Unit.