Tasmanian youth detention centre linked to abuse allegations to close amid 'major systemic change'

Tasmania's Ashley Youth Detention Centre will close within three years, with a new facility in the state's north and another in the south to replace it.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein.

Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein. Source: AAP

The Tasmanian government announced on Thursday it will close the Ashley Youth Detention Centre within three years, citing the need for “major systemic change”.

Premier Peter Gutwein said two new, smaller facilities would be constructed to replace the centre, one in the state’s north, and another in the south.

The centre in Deloraine in Tasmania’s north was linked to historical allegations of sexual abuse, as well as a more recent allegation of workplace sexual harassment.

“Personally, I've long held the concern that the allegations of historical abuse, and the ongoing speculation around Ashley, is not conducive to achieving the best practice outcomes that we have strived for,” Mr Gutwein said.

A report commissioned by the state government in 2016 recommended the facility be shut down as it was ineffective, costly and outdated.

Mr Gutwein said despite the centre pivoting to a more therapeutic model of care since that recommendation was made, “enough is enough”.

"Despite the best intentions of management and staff, the centre will continue to be stigmatised and constrained in terms of the outcomes it can achieve for the young people it provides service for through the youth justice system," he said.

“While we've taken all steps to ensure we have therapeutic processes in place to support the safety of young people in the care of Ashley, I believe it's time for a new approach.”

Mr Gutwein said the new model would ensure young Tasmanians have access to the right kind of support, as and when they need it through a "more robust" throughcare approach.

“I believe that, coupled with preventative strategies, that will give young people a far better chance of gaining the support that they need and so that they are in a better position to rehabilitate to live better lives,” he said.

“As a state, we must ensure we do more to prevent our young people's involvement with the youth justice system in the first place. And importantly, when they do enter that system we must do more to ensure that we get better outcomes for them and our community.”

He said the government would consult with the Custodial Inspector and the Commissioner for Children and Young People to ensure the children most at risk during the transition period are supported.

Tasmania’s Minister for Children Sarah Courtney will provide a transition plan to cabinet in the coming weeks.

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at BeyondBlue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.

Anyone seeking information or support relating to sexual abuse can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.

Published 9 September 2021 at 4:52pm
By Amy Hall
Source: SBS News