Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (25 August) . . Page.. 2406 ..
MR HARGREAVES (continuing):
Let us look at this Government's record on corrections, particularly corrections in the area of young people. It is not a question of confidence in one department as opposed to another. It is a question of whether this Government is forward thinking or backward thinking. Look at it from two points of view: The recent history of Quamby and the Government's record so far on the development of a prison for the ACT, because at the end of the day it is an issue of how we actually change behaviour in young people and stop them going into the prisons and the corrections system.
When the crisis of Mark Watson's death raised the seriousness of the activities in Quamby in September 1996, what actually occurred? The Government at that time made a rare but good decision. Maybe I have got that round the wrong way; it was a good but rare one. The administration of Quamby at that time was part of Corrective Services and it had a corrections mind-set; it had the prison officer culture. The Government spotted that Quamby is not about the incarceration of kids; it is part of Children's Services. If we are to be successful in preventing kids from going into the adult corrections system, we need to have Quamby managed with a service to kids mind-set, not a punishment mind-set. That worked at Quamby.
Thanks to the expertise of Michael White, until recently the executive director of Children's, Youth and Family Services in the Department of Education, and Frank Duggan, the current manager of Quamby, the staff culture is starkly different from what it was then. Do we want to go back to what it was before? I do not think so. When we think about how to stop kids actually getting into the system, I think we all acknowledge that the success of our youth centre services and our services to young people generally has a direct effect on whether these people go into the judicial system.
That was proven in Queensland, as I think I have mentioned in this house before. A few years back there was an upsurge in the number of people being put in prison - something like 30 per cent - and people thought then that there was a crime wave on. When it was checked out it was found that that was not the case. In fact, we had spoken about that in our prison journeys. The problem stemmed from a reduction in resources for youth centres around Queensland brought about by the then Bjelke-Petersen Government; it was tracked back to that.
The up-to-date thinking is that if we plough our resources and our mind-set into the problems that the kids are experiencing at an early age, we can actually prevent them from ever going into the system and keep the numbers down in that way. It is an investment. I see the services at Quamby as being at the tail end of that. Where our youth centre services have not worked so well for particular kids, Quamby is in fact the last stage. It is incredibly important that we not have the prison mind-set in that area, because it is after all the last chance some of these kids are going to get.
One of the things that worry me is that the move from Education through Children's, Youth and Family Services can be seen as an expression of lack of confidence in Mr Stefaniak's administration of his portfolio. I, for one, would like to congratulate Mr Stefaniak for facilitating the work of Michael White and Frank Duggan in effectively changing the culture there, and their efforts are starting to bear fruit. I am concerned that we will go backwards from that.