Mental Health Australia condemns Banksia Hill and calls on governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility


Australia’s leading mental health non-governmental organization described the situation in Western Australia Children’s Prison as “a picture of trauma, disadvantage, distress and injustice”.

In a statement released on Thursday, Mental Health Australia chief executive Dr Leanne Beagley urged governments across Australia to get children under 14 out of prisons by raising the age of criminal responsibility.

“This week we couldn’t avoid being told about the treatment of primary school-aged ‘prisoner’ children at a justice center in Perth,” she said.

“It was an image of trauma, disadvantage, distress and injustice. And it wasn’t the first time.

“The eyes of the world are on Australia for action on this deeply troubling situation.”

Dr Beagley noted that during the UN Human Rights Council’s most recent Universal Periodic Review of Australia’s compliance with the international human rights charters it has signed, the majority of member states (29 out of 47) urged the country to raise the age of criminal responsibility.

The representative of the Republic of Maldives urged: “[That Australia] adjust the national juvenile justice system in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in particular raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 years.

Dr. Beagley recalled a prison visit she made on Remembrance Day.

“I went to Port Phillip Prison in Melbourne for a ceremony marking my late husband’s work as a prison chaplain for 15 years, and that of his colleague who also recently died. The impact of the pandemic had prevented such an occasion until now,” she said.

“After RAT tests, security checks and several doors needing to be locked and unlocked, the two families headed to an area marked with memorial plaques and a beautiful, thoughtfully designed garden to entertain. A ceremony and a “celebration” with co-workers followed.

“As important as this event was to us and our family, it is not and should never be a place for children.”

WA Premier Mark McGowan has ruled out raising the age of criminal responsibility and rejected calls for Banksia Hill to be closed, including from former childcare inspector Neil Morgan.

Earlier this week, WA Law Society President Rebecca Lee, in reference to the transfer of inmates from Banksia Hill to Casuarina, said: “Sending children to WA’s main maximum security prison is not the right solution and we have to rethink”.

“The Western Australian Government must urgently consider how it can redirect funds to programs that aim to reduce the root causes of crime before behavior escalates, and how to appropriately house children when bail is inappropriate or that a custodial sentence should be imposed. ,” she says.

“The system is broken if juvenile detainees are housed in conditions described as cruel and punitive, and as having no rehabilitative effect… This should not be the intent or impact of our justice system.


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