Banksia Hill youth detention damage bill could hit $30m

·2-min read
Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS

West Australian Premier Mark McGowan warns the damage bill from the Banksia Hill youth detention riot could hit $30 million and refuses to soften his criticism of the people responsible.

Dozens of detainees took part in the 14-hour stand-off last week, breaching their cells and climbing onto the roof before lighting fires and hurling projectiles as the facility was plunged into lockdown.

Mr McGowan has been told to educate himself after likening the crisis to "terrorism" and claiming brain injuries such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder were being used as excuses for poor behaviour.

On Tuesday, Mr McGowan did not repeat his earlier descriptions of detainees, but again pointed fingers at those responsible.

"The riot was completely and utterly unacceptable and unnecessary and the people involved need to be held to account," he said.

"There should be no excuses made for it."

Researchers have found a high prevalence of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) in youth detention, including in WA.

The disorder affects the ability to think, learn, focus and control behaviour and emotions. Those affected may also be impulsive and often have low self-esteem and mental health problems.

Damian Griffis from the First Peoples Disability Network was deeply disturbed by the premier's comments.

"Using highly emotive language that is ignorant of the nature of young people's disability is deeply concerning," he said.

"What the premier needs to understand is that young people with FASD can sometimes have a range of different needs that are simply not appropriately accommodated in a detention setting."

Caterina Giorgi from the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education said the tone of the public debate was disappointing.

"Youth detention centres are filled with children with disabilities including FASD," she said.

"We need supports in the community in health, education and social services for children with FASD so that they are supported in the community, rather than being detained in prisons."

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar said the premier's response was unhelpful.

"Punitive intervention and responses just do not help with positive reform and rehabilitation," she said.

"We need a therapeutic response, a deeper response where people who are in positions of influence and power listen to those who have the expertise around how do we best respond."

In WA, Indigenous Australians between 10 and 17 years of age are 58 times more likely than their non-Indigenous peers to be in detention.

There is a class action involving more than 500 children and young adults who have been detained at Banksia Hill, alleging mistreatment akin to torture, including long spells of solitary confinement.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

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Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)