Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 11 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 3473 ..
MR HARGREAVES: My question is to the Attorney-General. Yesterday in answer to my question the Attorney-General said that he could not recall reports to him in recent months of attempted suicides at the Belconnen Remand Centre. I acknowledge that the Attorney-General undertook to check with his department on that matter. When he does that will he undertake to ask the department to review its records on self-harm incidents over the calendar year to date?
Mr Humphries: Self-harm what?
MR HARGREAVES: Self-harm incidents.
Ms Carnell: That is not necessarily suicide.
MR HARGREAVES: No, I accept that. This is for the calendar year to date, since last January.
MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I can provide Mr Hargreaves with some information about his question yesterday. Attempted and actual suicide incidents do occur, unfortunately, within a custodial setting, as indeed they occur in our wider community. Since the death of the person into whose death the inquest is presently under way, on 14 February 1998, there have been seven incidents involving attempted suicide by detainees at the BRC. These occurred between March and July this year, and one detainee was involved in two such attempts. I am advised by the BRC that there have been no incidents of attempted suicide at the BRC since July of this year.
The high incidence of detainees at the BRC with mental health conditions obviously increases the frequency of self-harm behaviours. Every effort is being made to assist the coroner in the inquest into the death of the person whose death is being inquired into at the moment, and in light of the comments made by the coroner an approach has been made to counsel assisting the Coroner to discuss and resolve any difficulties.
The problem with respect to the accommodation of people with mental health illnesses or dysfunction within the BRC is an issue which gave rise to the Government's decision, announced in the most recent budget, to move towards the establishment of a facility for people with such conditions which is secure and which is not necessarily within the context of a facility like the Belconnen Remand Centre. Mr Speaker, I am concerned about any suicides or attempted suicides or attempts at self-harm within the framework of our facilities in the ACT. I cannot ever promise, and I do not think any Minister in my position ever could, to prevent such things from occurring at all, but some work has begun, and must continue, to make sure that they are minimised in the future. I will ask for Corrective Services to review the records of self-harm incidents in the calendar year to date.
MR HARGREAVES: I ask a supplementary question. Would you at the same time advise the Assembly whether there were any inmates of indigenous background the subject of self-harm reports in the calendar year to date? If so, how many were there?