Urgent crises response needed to support vulnerable young and young people in Ashley

TasCOSS and Families and Children Tasmania have joined calls by Tasmania’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, Leanne McLean, for a rapid response crisis team to immediately be established and sent into the Ashley Youth Detention Centre (AYDC) to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children and young people currently detained, as well as ensure the staff are supported to do their jobs.

TasCOSS CEO Ms Adrienne Picone said in the immediate short-term, a rapid response crisis team was needed to ensure the 12 children and young people (aged between 11-17) currently in detention at Ashley receive the care and support they need, as drastic staff shortages mean only a skeleton crew is left to look after the children and young people.

“These staff shortages mean the children and young people’s right to health care, education and their right to access legal services are being denied and we echo the calls of the Commissioner to urgently establish and deploy a rapid response crisis team,” said Ms Picone.

“Ideally Ashley would close immediately — it should not be beyond us to provide appropriate accommodation, rehabilitation and support for these 12 children and young people.”

Ms Picone said she acknowledged and applauded the bravery of all of the witnesses who gave evidence in relation to conditions at AYDC as part of the Commission of Inquiry, particularly those young people who shared their lived experience of abuse.

“We must now learn from the evidence and experiences shared with the Commission of Inquiry and take urgent steps to safeguard the rights and safety of all Tasmanian children and young people,” she said.

“In the medium-term, we must ensure no children experience detention, with all evidence demonstrating that a criminal justice response to children is inappropriate and harmful.

“And there is a simple solution to this, which is to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14.

“While we welcome the Tasmanian Government’s recent commitment to raise the minimum age of detention to 14, we strongly believe the Government should take the next logical step and not wait for a decision by all Attorneys-General around the country. The ACT has already taken this step and there is nothing to stop Tasmania doing the same.

“In the longer-term, we must fast track the establishment of alternatives to detention for children and young people by bringing forward the therapeutic facilities and models of care that are so overdue.

“If the Tasmanian Government truly wants to lead with its heart and its head, there should be no greater priority than the safety of our children and young people.”

Families and Children Tasmania (FACT) Chair, Caroline Brown said they also encouraged the Tasmanian Government to invest in targeted intervention services for the families of the children and young people at AYDC, combined with comprehensive prevention and earlier intervention strategies. 

“It’s well established that the majority of children and young people in youth detention are involved with the out of home care system and are also often disconnected from their families,” Ms Brown said.

“We also strongly support working with these families to find alternative solutions to detention, such as kinship care options, and FACT would be very happy to work collaboratively with Government to find solutions to these complex problems for the benefit of our children and young people.”