• Labor Senator Pat Dodson supports a regional juvenile detention facility but says we need to more focus on rehabilitating the kids (AAP)
The West Australian Labor Senator also agrees with establishing a regional juvenile facility in the north-west of the state.
By
Rangi Hirini

18 May 2018 - 10:58 AM  UPDATED 18 May 2018 - 2:31 PM

Currently, Western Australia has one youth detention centre located in Perth. An estimated 150 young people are currently locked up at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.

One hundred and twelve detainees identify with being either Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Seventy of them come from regional Western Australia. The highest number of regional Indigenous kids comes from the Kimberly.

West Australian Labor Senator Pat Dodson is a proud Yawuru man from Broome in the Kimberley and has previously campaigned for a regional juvenile detention facility in Western Australia. 

He told NITV's The Point it wasn’t “a good look” for both the custodial staff and the young kids when they’re transported to Perth from regional areas across the state.

“I’m a firm believer in having these regional institutions,” Senator Dodson said.

“Not just for the sake of filling them up but where on ways of dealing with these young people in an environment where that they belong within rather than in an alienated environment within the south.”

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The West Australian Acting Inspector of Custodial Services, Andrew Harvey also told The Point that having a regional juvenile facility in Western Australia would give Banksia an opportunity to split “problem groups”.

“More importantly though, it does keep kids closer to their family links and keeps them in more closer contact to the family and it enables them to remain integrated with their community,” he said.

Acting Inspector Harvey also said it can be difficult for children to remain in contact with their family while being detained at Banksia Hill.

Senator Dodson said regional kids are losing their culture when they get sent to Perth and gaining a lot of bad habits.

“What happens to them is they get detached from the realities of the societies that they come out of, or the communities they come out of.  They develop attitudes that are more of a major city and the life of crime really."

“So they’re not learning other skills on how to engage in the land, they’re not picking up the language skills, they’re not enhancing their leadership abilities, and they’re not learning the kind of protocols and respects that they should be learning from their seniors.  Respect for culture in our sociality ways isn’t instilled in them,” he said.

Senator Dodson said the focus needs to be more on rehabilitating the children then locking them up.

“We’ve got to invest a lot more a lot more into investment programs…We gotta send a message that we value young people, and we want them to get the best that society can offer, rather than feel like they’re isolated and cut off from what the best things in society offer,” he said.

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'He doesn’t say much but his eyes are very ruined, his voice is very different, there is no confidence, there is no self-esteem,’ says the mother of one of the three detainees (one Maori, two Aboriginal) who remained in the isolation unit at Banksia Hill Juvenile Detention Centre for more than 300 days, according to Amnesty International.
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Amnesty International has called for change in WA's treatment of juvenile offenders, after meeting with family members of the Banksia Hill detainees who had been relocated to the Hakia Men's Prison in West Australia.