Page 5483 - Week 13 - Wednesday, 16 November 2011

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A forensic mental health facility would really be dealing with those individuals who, because of their mental illness, are not fit to plead, not fit to be found to have had the necessary elements to prove particular intent. So they really are in a higher order category than perhaps the types of issues that would be dealt with in the CSU. They are a different category of prisoner.

By eliminating AMC remandees and sentenced prisoners from a forensic mental health unit, it could be argued that a forensic unit would not be financially viable because it would treat only people who were deemed unfit to plead.

The government has today told us that it remains committed to building a forensic mental health unit and that detainees from the AMC will be able to be treated there. It appears that within the government there have been mixed messages about what the policy was, and I am glad that that will now be clarified.

The other key point my motion sought to discuss was that of detainees being held for medium to long periods in the AMC’s crisis support unit. The crisis support unit was designed as a low-stimuli environment for detainees who required short stays because of an acute crisis. It has no outside areas, and the existing exercise area has high brick walls and a small mesh open roof. The Knowledge Consulting report stated that one detainee was held there for nine months, three months longer than what would be recommended for an ACT forensic mental health unit.

I have been inside the crisis support unit and I would challenge anyone who would say that staying there for longer than several weeks, without any access to grass or fresh air, would not lead to a deterioration in a person’s mental health. Independent statutory bodies have raised their concerns about the unit through the annual reports process, including the AMC Official Visitor and the Health Services Commissioner. The Greens are concerned that throughout recent months we have not seen the government acknowledge the inappropriateness of the unit for people staying there for extended periods.

Until such time as a forensic mental health unit is built, interim options are required for those detainees with a severe mental illness who require mid to long-term care. If detainees with a severe mental illness are to achieve rehabilitation and be able to function once their incarceration has ended, or even just survive, they need to receive therapeutic treatment for the mental illness. The existing situation in Canberra must not continue, as a crisis support unit is not a therapeutic environment and cannot provide mid to long-term mental health care.

Kids Assist program

DR BOURKE (Ginninderra) (9.20): On Friday, 4 November I was delighted to meet the graduating students of the 2011 Kids Assist program. The Kids Assist program is a training initiative which gives year 10 students who are at risk of not completing high school the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the construction industry. This also acts as an incentive to remain in school.

The Kids Assist program is a collaborative initiative involving a number of ACT high schools, the CIT and the ACT Master Builders group. The program combines

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