• Heather Sculthorpe has asked for the TAC to be involved in the review of Brahminy program. (NITV News )Source: NITV News
The Tasmanian Aboriginal Community is calling on the state government to review strip searching, after a teenager had her clothes cut off by Police in the Hobart CBD three weeks ago.
Sarah Collard

8 Jan 2021 - 4:36 PM  UPDATED 8 Jan 2021 - 5:46 PM

A 17-year-old Aboriginal teenager was left 'traumatised' after being strip searched over a minor offence in Hobart three weeks ago.

The Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, who is supporting the 17 year old girl and her family, said it was extremely concerning.

Nala Mansell, spokeswoman for the TAC said the girl was stopped by police while trying to catch a bus home - but due to strict bail conditions was banned from Hobart’s city centre.

She said the teenager was left ‘shaken and traumatised’ over the forced strip search after she refused to comply with requests to remove her clothing.

“It was completely traumatic,” the Palawa woman said.

“They held her down and cut her clothes from her body - It is disgusting and a complete violation of the rights of children and young people.”

Ms Mansell said she was meeting with state politicians to ensure the recommendations of a recent review into Tasmania’s strip searching laws was a priority.

There are concerns the incident could strain the relationship between Tasmanian Indigenous communities and police, Ms Mansell said.

"Our people have a long standing history of distrust with the police and this just further destroys any type of relationship."

'Not acceptable in modern Tasmania'

The Tasmanian opposition is urging an independent inquiry be held into the strip search of the teenager.

Labor Minister, Jen Butler said in a statement that she was ‘deeply disturbed’ by the allegations and said strip searches should cease.

“Every Tasmanian hearing these confronting allegations today should be horrified,” Ms Butler said.

“This is simply not acceptable in modern Tasmania and it undermines all the good work of other police officers.

Children and young people should not be strip searched at all and the State government should step in, according to Nala Mansell.

“We're calling on the Government to put in some type of measure to make sure that those recommendations are adhered to and that the number of children being stripped searched in custody is at a level zero.” she said.

Last year the Tasmanian Children’s Commissioner, Leanne McLean recommended that routine strip searches of children in custody be scrapped and that vulnerable young people be better protected.

The Assistant Commissioner of the Tasmanian Police, Adrian Bodnar said they ensure all young people are treated appropriately. 

"Police take very seriously their obligations and responsibilities in relation to all people in police custody, including Aboriginal people and youths." he said in a statement.

Tasmanian police said the teenager was treated fairly and appropriately.

"The approval of the detention of the youth to the Hobart Reception Prison was provided by an Inspector of Police in line with policy regarding Aboriginal people and youths in custody."

Government says strip search 'appropriate'

A spokesperson for the Tasmanian Government told NITV News that the incident with the Aboriginal teenager didn't breach Police procedures. 

"They were subject to a personal search to ensure the safety of the individual and others. The search was conducted in accordance with all applicable Tasmania Prison Service (TPS) policies and procedures." they said in a statement..

The Department of Justice said that draft legislation that is currently being proposed ensures strip searches are undertaken as needed for safety reasons.

"The amendments are intended to minimise any associated trauma, distress or harm in relation to searches conducted of youth in custodial facilities in Tasmania," it read.

"The draft Bill provides a consolidated and consistent power to search a youth in custody in custodial facilities, or in transit between facilities, when there are reasonable grounds that the search is necessary, and for a legitimate purpose."