Of the 206 detainees at Banksia Hill on the night concerned, it is not known exactly how many were involved in the riot although it is likely that somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of the detainees participated in the riot to some degree. Approximately 61 male detainees escaped from their cells and a significant number, including some of the female detainees, damaged their cells internally without being able to get out.
The three detainees who initially absconded from their unit may have had a prior agreement to engage in a roof ascent. However, there is no evidence that any of the detainees planned to instigate an event on the scale that occurred. From detainee reactions to the riot, it appears that the outcome of the evening was unplanned. As evidenced in the CCTV footage, detainees showed little coordination of their actions, with no clear leadership. Detainees split from groups and merged with others in a fluid manner throughout the evening. One youth noted detainees ‘just kept on rolling’ during the riot. Another noted ‘after a while we realised boys were getting out on their own, we couldn’t stop it’.
Early in the evening, when only the initial three detainees had absconded from the unit, a rock was thrown at a staff member which could have caused injury. In addition, a detainee who was being held on the basketball court injured an Emergency Support Group staff member while being moved. These were the only two recorded incidents of altercations between staff and detainees. Other than these incidents there was no evidence of any intention by detainees to target staff. Nor was there any intention to injure other detainees.
Further, while a rock was thrown against a window in the gatehouse there was no concerted effort to break out of the centre. Staff reported that one individual from a group threw the rock against the gatehouse, but the rest of the group were not supportive of this action and they quickly dispersed from the area.