By ERWIN CHLANDA
Public opposition to the proposed siting of a new youth detention centre was a factor in the government’s decision not to build it.
PHOTO: Part of the school section.
Families Minister Dale Wakefield said today the government had “considered range of locations in Alice Springs.
“There are limited options. We did have some initial discussions with Desert Knowledge and the AZRI site.
“I had very clear and very strong feedback from the community that wasn’t a location they felt was necessary. At this stage that’s why we made the decision to expand this site here,” she said, speaking to media being shown through the existing facility, adjacent to the adult prison some 30km south of town.
“Looking forward we’ll look at what the options are for a longer term solution. It may be that this type of facility in Central Australia needs to be in a remote location.”
She said the centre was being expanded at a cost of $10m while $60m is being set aside to replace the Don Dale centre in Darwin.
A youth and work camp is being set up in the Barkly at a cost of $3m and a further $10m will be spent on “other diversion programs”.
PHOTO: Media people today in the dining room.
Ms Wakefield said a range of options for the Central Australian region other than detention include wilderness camps and “Indigenous people getting back on country”.
The Alice facility currently has a cap of 18 detainees but the government is looking at further expansions to cope with “surges”.
To “access services and to ensure community and workers’ safety” there will continue to be a “flow” of detainees between the Alice Springs facility and Don Dale, although Ms Wakefield described that as “not ideal”.
Construction of the new work will start at end of the year.
The Minister was asked about ending breach of bail by children as a criminal offence. She said it was important to give “our front line staff, judges and police the right tools to change young people’s behaviours.
“There need to be consequences in place when children do the wrong thing.
“We need a range of diversion options so that for young people who are are misbehaving there is a consequence that meets their behaviour that is focussed on changing their behaviour.”
She said these options include changes of bail conditions.
It was necessary that the police “has a very clear decision making matrix” and there needs to be “a range of things to give the judges to be able to make the right decisions focussed on community safety”.
Raising age of criminal responsibility, a recommendation from the Royal Commission, is being considered so long as “we have responses for people under 14 who continue to break laws”.
But before that age change is made there needs to be focus on programs such as the “Back on Track” for eight to 12 year olds, “making sure there is a very flexible system so we prevent crime before it happens”.
The law for arrest to be used as a last resort with younger people is likely to stay.
PHOTO: Where cooking is being taught.
“We’ve had feedback from police that operationally, on the ground, that police need as many tools as possible. It is part of police orders that arrests should be the last resort.”
Ms Wakefield said she is getting advice on the matter.
One of the things that has been put before the Scrutiny Committee is the removal of the offence of breach of bail.
“To be really clear … if a young person breaches their bail they will go back to court on their original crime.
“Adding an additional offence only adds to the paperwork for frontline police and does not add value to the outcome.”
About youth court hearings being closed to the public, Ms Wakefield said bringing reporters into the court is under consideration: “We do think it is important that there is a sense of privacy but we’re trying to get the balance right so media can scrutinise the process and there is a transparent system.”
Minister Wakefield (centre) with media today.
Room of the video link from the detention facility to the courts.
By ERWIN CHLANDA