Slow-moving Government response to 'live risks' at Ashley failing our children

TasCOSS, as part of a coalition of justice and social service organisations including Prisoners’ Legal Service Tasmania and 54 reasons, call on the Premier to demonstrate his stated commitment to the safety of our children by closing Ashley Youth Detention Centre as a matter of urgency and work with the community service industry around progressing alternative arrangements.

TasCOSS CEO, Ms Adrienne Picone, said the coalition remained extremely concerned for the safety of the children currently held at Ashley, particularly considering the Commission of Inquiry’s Final Report which confirmed there are ‘current and live risks’ for detainees and recommended its urgent closure,” Ms Picone said. 

“We learned courtesy of a question from the Member for Nelson that of the 26 children who were locked-up at Ashley in the three month window between 1 July and 3 September this year, 19 were yet to be sentenced and at least one child had been held at Ashley on remand for in excess of 200 days.

“This is a shocking admission, particularly in light of the current conditions at Ashley and the impact they are having on the health and wellbeing of the children detained and their families.”

Prisoners’ Legal Service Tasmania Chair, Greg Barns SC, said the Tasmanian Government has a duty of care to prisoners and detainees. 

“Given what we know about Ashley and how it operates today, it is clear that by leaving it open, the Government is breaching that duty. This means more vulnerable young people are being traumatised on a daily basis,” Mr Barns said.

54 reasons State Director, David O’Sign, who deliver Save the Children’s services in Australia, expressed concern about the timeline to close Ashley.

“The facility is not fit-for-purpose and keeping it open for longer only risks further harm to Tasmanian children who are detained there,” Mr O’Sign said.

“We’re ready and able to continue our services, which are therapeutic and rights respecting, to the young people detained at the centre once a suitable alternative is identified.”

Ms Picone added that the Government’s announcement of a proposed southern youth detention facility at Pontville was not an adequate or appropriate response to the findings of the Commission.

“We have no confidence the development of a new southern youth detention centre will address any of the underlying issues contributing to our child safety and youth justice system,” she said.

“Our community organisations — who already know and work with Tasmanian families and children — stand ready to work alongside the Tasmanian Government to offer additional support and arrangements for those children currently locked-up at Ashley.

“The Commission repeatedly reinforced the need for urgent action to uphold the rights of all Tasmanian children and ensure they are safe. The Government must act now.”

The coalition penned an open letter to the Premier calling for the urgent closure of Ashley, along with the appointment of specialist forensic experts to assess all detained children and identify their treatment needs to plan for their care in community; and the development of a multidisciplinary working group.