Yesterday I visited the Banksia Hill Detention Centre along with Professor Neil Morgan, Inspector of Custodial Services, and Trish Heath, my office’s Director of Policy and Research.
I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with staff at the centre, which is the only detention facility for offenders aged 10-17 years in Western Australia.
We were also pleased to speak with several young people there about their experiences and the challenges that they have faced.
In December last year my office released Speaking Out About Youth Justice, a report that details the experiences, concerns and views of 92 young Western Australians who have been through the youth justice system and spent time at Banksia Hill.
Many of the young people we spoke to for the report told us that they wished to live a life free of crime in the future. They talked about family dysfunction, peer pressure from friends, a lack of resources in the community, disengagement from school and personal issues like substance misuse leading them to criminal behaviour.
They were also very clear about what supports could help to prevent them from offending including: strong role models, affordable and accessible community activities, and better support at school and transitioning to employment.
I do not condone illegal behaviour and it is important for young people to repay the community for any offence they commit. However, I believe the best approach is to prevent youth offending in the first place which means giving these young people every opportunity to build a positive future.