The Department has introduced new and more rigorous assessment tools. There is generally one recruitment campaign a year which produces enough candidates to participate in two training schools during the same period. The recruitment process is thorough, containing the following steps in assessment:
- Applications are submitted and assessed;
- Shortlisted applicants are required to complete a battery of psychological, aptitude, literacy and numeracy tests. These tests have been customised to meet the requirements of the Department and the role;
- Further shortlisting occurs as a result of the assessment of these tests and the shortlisted candidates are then interviewed;
- Medical fitness testing occurs at this point. Despite concerns raised by some that these tests may not be sufficiently stringent, according to the recruitment team, these tests have been developed in conjunction with outside expertise and do in fact serve to “weed out” candidates at this point who are not deemed sufficiently fit;
- Shortlisted candidates are then interviewed again by a psychologist (from an outside provider) who can tailor the interview based on information received during the previous assessment processes;
- The outcomes of this process are reviewed by an internal psychologist working within the Recruitment team; and
- All information is then referred to a Decision Panel who comprises a range of people including management from the Detention Centre and Youth Justice as well as the Academy and the in-house Psychologist. From this point a pool of suitable candidates is created.
This is a rigorous process by any standards. Apparently the full battery of tests was thoroughly reviewed three years ago and improvements were made. However, if there is a lack of clarity about what is being sought (target candidates, values desired etc.), this can affect the quality of decision making. Also if the “right” people are selected and then they encounter a different culture or mindset on coming to the job, the best recruitment process will count for little.
Some people have suggested that it might be an opportune time to ‘raise the bar’ in terms of entrance requirements and selection criteria for the youth custodial officer positions. This may improve what has been described by Head Office management as a lack of professional pride among YCOs, and may assist in improving perceptions of the role so that it is seen as a career path for aspirational high performing individuals.
Given the general attractiveness of the job in the recruitment campaigns, this may be a realistic strategy. The following statistics from the last two campaigns demonstrate the attractiveness of the role:
Youth Custodial Recruitment Details 2011-2012
Nonetheless, if the recruitment and selection standards are raised even higher, there is the potential for even less individuals from an Aboriginal background making it through the recruitment process. The lack of Aboriginal staff was raised in the previous inspection of Banksia Hill, where it was noted that only one Aboriginal applicant made it through the recruitment school held at the time. The lack of Aboriginal staff places considerable pressure on the few that are there, who play a key role in the centre’s decision making and in many cases are the only staff members who Aboriginal detainees talk freely with. The situation has not improved since the previous inspection, and it is notable that there were no Aboriginal staff on duty on the night of the incident.