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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 07 Hansard (Thursday, 3 August 2017) . . Page.. 2439 ..

The following day an editorial in the Canberra Times labelled this collective response “evasive, defensive and at times inconsistent”. Three days later the Canberra Times raised a fresh set of allegations, all from the previous three months. What was the minister’s recorded response? These events, she claimed, were still “mostly historical”, and anyway they had all been swiftly dealt with.

The problem, however, is that these supposedly historical events just keep coming. They apparently refuse to stay so far back in the past that the CSD and the minister can make them disappear with a simple wave of the wand. In fact, just yesterday I was told that the centre was so short staffed over the weekend that detainees were confined to their rooms for part of Saturday and Monday.

In mid-July a brawl allegedly broke out between two groups of detainees on the Bimberi oval and apparently the youth worker who tried to intervene was injured. When this fresh allegation, confirmed by ACT Policing, was reported in the Canberra Times, what was the minister’s response? In speaking to 2CC she reminded listeners that many of the young people going into Bimberi “have experienced significant trauma in their lives” and many of them have learnt to use violence to express their anger, fear and frustration. Because of this—and I quote the minister again—“when you have people like that together, every now and again incidents will occur”.

There you have it, the white flag of surrender has been raised. We have come full circle, from being assured not to worry because all these violent incidents occurred in the past to being told not to worry because these incidents are unavoidably going to continue/occur whenever you have people like that together. What can one do? Apparently, just learn to accept a violent assault every now and again. Never mind that a youth justice centre should be a place where vulnerable young people have their safety guaranteed.

Two days ago, in fact, the minister finally released a long-awaited charter of rights for young people in Bimberi Youth Justice Centre. This charters states:

You have the right to be kept safe while you are at Bimberi.

The very first bullet point under this declaration begins with the following assurance:

You can expect to feel safe.

But, seriously, can the young people who find themselves in Bimberi expect to feel safe? Should they?

On the same day that she released the new charter of rights the minister also tabled a statement in which she revealed that in 2015-16 there were at least eight assaults by detainees on other young people in Bimberi, though a youth worker who was there during those years has told me they suspect this is a case of under-reporting. Taking this number at face value, however, means that, on average, one or more young

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