Amnesty International condemns the use of extreme force against children detained in the Banksia Hill detention centre overnight and calls on WA Premier Mark McGowan to immediately act to ensure the needs of children detained in Banksia Hill detention centre are met.
Overnight, children incarcerated in the facility left their cells and climbed on a roof to stage a protest. In response, Corrective Services sent in a heavily-armed Special Forces unit that threatened the children with guns and pepper spray.
Images of violence and extreme force used by prison staff against incarcerated children are reminiscent of the scenes from the Don Dale youth detention centre that shocked the nation, leading to a Royal Commission into the facility.
Amnesty International is deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of the children, young people and staff at Banksia Hill, particularly in the wake of the protest.
Comments attributable to Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon:
“Every Australian should be shocked and appalled by the violence and extreme force used by prison staff against some of the most vulnerable children in the country. All children have the right to be free from state-sanctioned violence.”
“The WA Labor government can no longer hide the way their state treats some of the most vulnerable children in its care. Premier Mark McGowan must immediately act to end the human rights violations in West Australian youth detention centres and to ensure the safety of these young people.”
“It is unconscionable that Premier Mark McGowan would describe property damage by traumatised, antagonised children as a “form of terrorism” while his department sends in Special Forces to point guns at children.”
“By keeping the dangerous Banksia Hill facility running, the WA Labor government oversees a regimen of human rights violations against these children.”Amnesty International’s Indigenous Rights Advisor Rodney Dillon
“Amnesty International joins with human rights organisations across the country to demand the immediate closure of Banskia Hill and for the incarcerated children to be supported in the community.”
“The WA government must invest in long-term solutions that address the key drivers of violence in children in consultation with their families and communities, and it can start by diverting the millions of dollars spent on maintaining the youth detention centres into Aboriginal community-led diversion programs that actually work.”
Though Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the nation’s youth incarceration record has triggered sustained international condemnation for failing to uphold those rights. In 2021, 30 countries of the United Nations Human Rights Council came together to condemn the human rights violations Australia perpetrates against children in detention centres and prisons.
Australia has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), committing to protect the rights, health and safety of people in any kind of detention including in prisons, youth detention centres and immigration detention.
In February this year, the OPCAT was forced to cancel its visit to Australia after the NSW and QLD state governments denied the independent human rights authority access to inspect prison and detention facilities. The only other country in the world that has had OPCAT cancel a visit is Rwanda.
In January 2023, Australia missed the deadline to implement its commitments to the OPCAT convention. OPCAT was then forced to cancel its planned visit to inspect Australia’s prison and detention facilities as the body was denied access to facilities for inspection.
In 2021, the United Nations Human Rights Council called on Australia to immediately end its incarceration of children under 14 and condemned Australia’s human rights atrocities perpetrated against children in youth detention.
In early 2018 Amnesty International called for the Intensive Support Unit at Banksia Hill to be immediately closed pending investigation, following serious allegations of abuse of young people which may amount to torture. Amnesty has consistently called for an end to the use of solitary confinement.
In December 2017, Australia ratified the OPCAT, which is designed to protect the rights, health and safety of people in any kind of detention including in prisons, youth detention centres, immigration detention, hospital, aged care and disability facilities.
In July 2017 the extreme suffering endured by children in Banksia Hill was revealed following findings from the Inspector of Custodial Services including the use of spit hoods, solitary confinement, alleged sexual assault, and soaring rates of self-harm and attempted suicide.