Western Australia: “The system is the real “terror” in youth justice”
Person wearing a black shirt stands in an outdoor setting, holding up a black sign with "Close Down Banksia Hills Detention Centre."

“How can the West Australian Premier Mark McGowan get away with describing a group of kids with disabilities as “terrorists”? Especially when we know that many of them grew up in the care and under the control of his own State’s Child Protection system.”

Recent reports have shed light on the dire conditions and mistreatment faced by children in Banksia Hill youth detention centre in Western Australia. These children, many of whom have severe disabilities and mental health issues, are being labeled as “terrorists” by the state’s Premier, Mark McGowan. However, it is clear that the underlying cause of the troubles in Banksia Hill lies with the failures of the WA Government and its child protection system.

“So, who are these children? It’s a fact that around 89 per cent of the kids in Banksia Hill have been found by the Telethon Foundation, one of Australia’s leading children’s’ health research organisations, to have a severe neurodevelopmental impairment, and over one third of the children were found to have been suffering from Foetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder or FASD.”

The majority of the children held in Banksia Hill are on remand and have not been convicted of any crimes, but even for those found guilty, imprisonment is often an inappropriate response. A significant number of the children in Banksia Hill have been found to have severe neurodevelopmental impairments, with many also suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD). These impairments require specialized care and treatment, not punishment and confinement. Rather than acknowledging the systemic failures of the government’s child protection system, Premier McGowan chooses to deflect attention by demonizing these vulnerable children.

Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner and the Disability Royal Commission, have reported disturbing practices in Banksia Hill. Children with disabilities are subjected to solitary confinement for prolonged periods, often locked in their cells for 20 to 24 hours a day without meaningful human contact. The lack of therapeutic support further compounds their plight, contributing to their deteriorating mental health.

The WA Inspector of Prisons (OICS) has stated that Banksia Hill is not fit for purpose, highlighting the need for urgent reform. Amnesty International, in a 2018 report, also exposed inhumane treatment, including denial of education, forced solitary confinement, and deprivation of family contact. The current system perpetuates a cycle of abuse and crime, disproportionately affecting Aboriginal children who are already overrepresented in the youth justice system.

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