Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre near Perth. © Tim Clarke/AAP

WA government must investigate incident that led to imprisonment of 14 year old for 19 days without charge

Amnesty International Australia has written to the Western Australian Minister for Corrections, Bill Johnson, to ask for an investigation into why a 14-year-old girl who refused to be strip searched was detained for 19 days at Banksia Hill Youth Detention Centre.

“There must be accountability and transparency around this disturbing incident, which is symptomatic of a systemic issue of racial discrimination in the justice system,” Amnesty International Australia Indigenous Rights campaigner Kacey Teerman said.

“The government’s refusal to investigate and hold the officials accountable is shocking and undermines the relationship that police have with children and Aboriginal communities.”

Experts and Aboriginal community leaders have called for eliminating strip searches altogether. Forcing a child to remove their clothes is deeply degrading and disempowering, especially for Aboriginal women whose bodies are considered a sacred part of women’s business in Aboriginal culture.

“Government systems dealing with child protection and youth justice have repeatedly failed Aboriginal families. There are so many examples of successful community-led solutions across the country. They need proper, long-term funding and a commitment from the government to move away from Band-Aid responses that harm kids and don’t achieve the outcomes they promise,” Teerman said.

Amnesty has repeatedly written to the Western Australian government expressing its concern about the well-being of children at Banksia Hill and the recommendations to find long-term solutions that address the key drivers of violence in children in consultation with their families and communities.

Amnesty International Australia continues to urge the government to divert the millions of dollars spent on maintaining and expanding the facilities at the youth detention centres into Aboriginal community-led diversion programs.