Page 2569 - Week 07 - Thursday, 18 June 2009

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MS GALLAGHER: No, there are not. The decision the government took, as far as I can recollect—I would have to go back and have a look at the youth detention corrections health policy—but I am pretty certain that the decision around a needle and syringe program was restricted to the Alexander Maconochie Centre. The view was that we would review 18 months after commissioning, because we have not operated a gaol before where we have operated a youth detention facility.

That was the decision that we took at that time, but I will take further advice on that just to make sure. I am pretty positive that our decision around a needle and syringe program was to review after 18 months—that Corrections Health would gather evidence in that first 18 months and the government would make its decision at that point.

These are not easy issues. There is a lot of support for a needle and a syringe program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. In fact, at the forum that was held yesterday it was indicated that certainly there is a level of community support for a needle and syringe program. Those desires have to be balanced against the views of those working in these centres. There are some very difficult industrial issues that would need to be worked through if the government did agree to a needle and syringe program at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. But let us wait and see. We had said we will review after 18 months, and we will do just that.

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, a supplementary question?

MRS DUNNE: Minister, can you explain why there appear to be two different policy directions for detention centres in the ACT, especially considering that, from time to time, inmates of Bimberi are 18 years or older?

MS GALLAGHER: That is a rare situation. It does occur if a young person is sentenced prior to their 18th birthday and they might serve their sentence at Bimberi if their sentence carries through to their 18th birthday.

I think the issues around juvenile detention are different to adult corrections. Some of the issues that prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre have, including their level of illicit drug use, are usually established over a long period of time, as is their exposure to things such as blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis C. I think the issues in managing a population that is, on average, between the years of 12 and 17 are a little different to those of dealing with an adult population where some pretty complex and long-held illicit drug use issues need to be responded to, as are the sentences that are often served in the Alexander Maconochie Centre as opposed to the juvenile justice centre.

I must say, I do not recall ever being lobbied around establishing a needle and syringe program at Bimberi, but we are a pretty progressive government; we are prepared to look at these issues. If Mrs Dunne is arguing for a needle and syringe program at a youth detention facility, I am happy to look at a submission. In fact, it would probably go to the Minister for Children and Young People. Presumably, if there is support for one in the youth detention facility, the issues around establishing one at the Alexander

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