Media Releases - 22 May 2024

Call for urgent action on Ashley Youth Detention Centre

Tasmanian Commissioner for Children and Young People Leanne McLean today called for urgent action from the Government, including the establishment of a special taskforce to reduce the numbers of children held on remand at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.

“At the start of this week, there were 26 children and young people held at Ashley”, Ms McLean said.

“These are some of the highest numbers of children and young people seen in detention in Tasmania in at least a decade and they are the highest I have known as Commissioner.”

“This has occurred despite the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation 6 months ago, accepted by the Government, that this institution is not fit-for-purpose, must be closed, and should be replaced by a new therapeutic model of youth justice.”

Ms McLean said almost all children currently held at Ashley are on remand.

“This means they have not been sentenced by a court.”

“Many of them have come into contact with the justice system because they have no safe place to go in the community, and many have not been able to access the types of supports that are known to reduce the likelihood they will engage in harmful behaviour.”

Ms McLean said the key elements of the Government’s 10-year Youth Justice Blueprint aimed at preventing children from coming into contact with the justice system remain largely unfunded.

“Further, a lack of resources to support the needs of children and families in communities is resulting in more children falling through the gaps and at risk of exhibiting harmful behaviours, resulting in more arrests, more children in our justice system, and more children in detention. 

“Conditions at Ashley remain extremely concerning, with low numbers of staff attempting to meet the highly complex needs of these children and young people.”

“I continue to hold serious concerns for the wellbeing of children and young people detained at Ashley under these conditions.” 

“I also hold concerns for the wellbeing of Ashley staff, who are often going above and beyond under difficult circumstances. Despite this, low staffing availability and the high numbers of children and young people detained means isolation practices are regularly used to manage safety within the centre.”

“Isolation erodes the wellbeing of children and young people and breaches their human rights.”

Ms McLean said a therapeutic approach to youth justice must include community-based alternatives to custodial remand for children and young people.

“This should include small, home-like residential care with sustained therapeutic interventions and integrated child and family supports – these alternatives are urgently required in advance of the Government’s proposed timeframes for the construction of bail accommodation and supported accommodation facilities and the closure of Ashley.”

“The continued reliance on Ashley as a place to detain children and young people, especially those on remand, is unacceptable post Commission of Inquiry and contrary to the principle that detention for children must only be used as a last resort.”

Ms McLean said the Government must act urgently to form a special taskforce to reduce the numbers of children at Ashley.

“This will require bravery and determination, and a willingness to work collaboratively across government, as well as with community organisations and oversight institutions to provide care support and accommodation for children and young people who engage in harmful behaviours and are most in need, ensuring they have everything they need to grow and thrive.”

Media Contact:
A.Mark Thomas
M&M Communications
0422 006 732