Ashley Youth Detention Center – Alternative Sites

Question from Mrs O’CONNOR to the MINISTER of EDUCATION, CHILDREN and YOUTH, Mr JAENSCH

It has been almost exactly a year since it was announced that the Ashley Youth Detention Center would be closing. As Amnesty International and UNICEF Australia call for Ashley to be shut down immediately, we fear you may hesitate again. Can you tell the House if the two sites have been identified, if the designs for the two facilities are finalized and if tenders are being prepared for the construction and the provision of services? We did not get a response from the Prime Minister, so can you tell us? Will the new model be in place within two years, as promised to Tasmanians?

ANSWER

Mr President, I thank the leader of the Greens for her question. As the Prime Minister mentioned in his response to your similar question –

Mrs. O’Connor – No, that’s a very different question.

Mr JAENSCH – we remain committed to our decision to close Ashley and establish new purpose-built facilities.

Mrs. O’Connor – But you haven’t done anything for a year; this is the evidence that emerged from the investigation.

Mr SPEAKER – Order, Ms. O’Connor, you asked the question, so allow the minister to answer it, please.

Mr JAENSCH – Importantly, the Prime Minister said it was not about postcodes and bricks and mortar. These are the young people our courts determine for their care and rehabilitation, and for the safety of the community –

Mrs. O’CONNOR – Point of order, Mr. Speaker, Standing Order 45, relevance. The question asked whether sites had been identified, tenders issued or designs finalized? We want an update.

Mr SPEAKER – Ms. O’Connor, Standing Order 45 is not the time to ask the question again. The minister only spoke for 30 seconds, so I don’t expect Standing Order 45 to be used until the minister has at least half finished his question. Minister, please continue.

Mr JAENSCH – Thanks. I believe Ms O’Connor also agrees that the most important thing is that we provide the right environments and the right model of care for young people who find themselves –

Mrs. O’Connor – It’s not.

Mr JAENSCH – Isn’t that the most important for you?

Mrs. O’Connor – No. Ashley is in the wrong place.

Mr JAENSCH – So we agree that Ashley Youth Detention Center is no longer the right place for us long term as a youth detention facility. That’s why we’ve committed to closing Ashley and moving to a new facility.

The Prime Minister outlined a series of safeguards taken to ensure that today’s Ashley, where we have young people in custody, is a different place to the Ashley we had before.

Mrs. O’Connor – Are you going to answer the question?

Mr SPEAKER – Ms. O’Connor, if you’re not ready to hear the answer, I’ll ask you to leave. You asked the minister the question. Please allow him to respond and stop intervening.

Mr JAENSCH – I’ll try to go through some of the steps we’ve taken to answer Ms. O’Connor’s question.

We have now appointed a Chair of our Youth Justice Reform Steering Committee and a new Executive Director to lead our Youth Justice Reform Team. Shan Tennant will be our Independent Chair of the Youth Justice Reform Steering Committee, and Chris Simcock has been appointed to lead the youth justice reform process.

To date, considerable work has been done on the youth justice reform process. Following the release of our discussion paper on the Youth Justice Blueprint, an extensive consultation process was undertaken with a wide range of stakeholders. This includes young people who are themselves currently involved in the youth justice system and their advocates. We have also worked closely with the Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Inspector of Prisons, who have particular statutory roles and functions relating to juvenile justice. These consultations are now informing the finalization of the master plan that will define the strategic directions for the entire system over the next 10 years.

In relation to the transition to new facilities, Noetic Group has been engaged to undertake an options brief for new facilities, which includes an analysis of Tasmanian data, consultation with Tasmanian stakeholders and a review of best practices of the whole world.

We have taken additional time to work with Noetic to consider how the alternatives to detention raised through our blueprint consultation might also impact our prison population and therefore the design of our prisons. future installations. We want to make the most of this unique opportunity to design and deliver new prison facilities while reforming the youth justice system as a whole.

We have a unique opportunity in terms of the population of young people in detention and I remind you that in 2021, we had the lowest rate of young people in detention, with an average number of people in detention per day of 9.4%. However, we know that 71% of young people detained in 2021 were awaiting the outcome of their court cases and that a number of these people did not receive detention sentences. We are currently considering how to provide more alternatives to detention, especially for young people who are currently in pre-trial detention awaiting the outcome of their case but who are not receiving custodial sentences.

We are looking at bail and residential options, as well as new community sentencing options. We have already committed to raising the minimum age of detention from 10 years to 14 years. We are also considering options for co-locating custodial facilities and other related youth services, such as alcohol and drug treatment and mental health support.

These and other factors will impact the size and requirements of the site, as well as the design of the custodial facilities we build. Form should follow function. We’re taking this opportunity to not only decant Ashley into two smaller buildings with different zip codes. We take this opportunity to fundamentally rethink the custodial elements of our youth justice system for the very small number of people they are required to serve and to increase the number of alternative secure accommodation and other delivery facilities services within this system.

Mr SPEAKER – If you could wrap up, please, Mr. Minister.

Mr JAENSCH – These things are worth studying and correcting. We have a political position and a deadline. We haven’t changed that. We work hard to ensure that the product we offer goes beyond just closing a building. It is about providing the care, the comprehensive therapeutic care that young people sentenced by the courts to a custodial sentence need and deserve if they are to have the best chance of a productive life.