Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 August 2017) . . Page.. 2434 ..
The minister’s statement touches on the operations of Bimberi. But to think that the main announcement in her statement, the main response to the issues at Bimberi, is a standardised annual report and a charter of rights is an insult to the brave whistleblowers who are actually putting the welfare of the staff and detainees first.
Here are some practical things the minister could have done, some practical things the minister could do in this space: one, she could provide a confidential telephone number managed by someone outside of government that staff and families could contact about the issues of welfare and the operations of the centre; two, the government could ensure that the operation of cameras at Bimberi is logged so that there can be audits to see if they have been turned off; three, she could facilitating the Official Visitor to have confidential off-site meetings rather than meetings taking place at Bimberi; four, the government should frequently report to the Assembly or a relevant Assembly committee about occasions when lockdowns have occurred. The government should also report at what times detainees are allowed out of their cells each morning; and, five, she could regularly publish the recidivism rates for detainees and also the number of former Bimberi detainees who are in AMC or have served in AMC.
These are just five simple initiatives that would go some way to getting the priorities right. As Ms Le Couteur said on 9 May, “We cannot afford any further delay. Now is the time to act.” The minister has delayed. She has not acted. The Assembly needs to intervene. It should censure the minister and in doing so we, as an Assembly, as representatives of our community, should ensure that safety and rehabilitation are front and centre in our youth justice system.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Community Services and Social Inclusion, Minister for Disability, Children and Youth, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations): (10.17): In responding to the Leader of the Opposition’s motion I wish to advise the Assembly of the actions I have taken as minister with responsibility for the youth justice portfolio. In doing so I note that I have consistently responded to questions in this place, including questions taken on notice; as well I have made two ministerial statements.
I take my responsibility to my constituents, the people of Canberra and particularly the vulnerable children, young people and families supported by my portfolio very seriously. When a series of emails was received earlier this year making a number of allegations about conditions and incidents at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre I also took those very seriously. I have never made light of any incident in Bimberi, and I have never said that practices at the centre could not be improved. I have always stated that the safety of young people and staff is my and the government’s highest priority and that the young people and staff in Bimberi have the right to feel safe.
I have also consistently stated that anyone with any concerns or evidence of wrongdoing at Bimberi should come forward to appropriate authorities so that these issues can be fully investigated and addressed. I repeat that today. I am committed to being as transparent as it is possible to be about the operation of a youth justice centre.