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Media Release: Political bravery required to confront the failure of Banksia Hill

Justice Reform Initiative Media Release, 15 November 2022

The McGowan government has been urged to recognise the long-standing, repeated and shocking failures of Banksia Hill Detention Centre and commit to a dramatically different approach to youth justice.

Footage of children being mistreated inside Banksia Hill, aired on Four Corners last night compounds the urgent need for the government to change course. Prominent Western Australians are now deafening in their cries for policymakers to move away from the punitive and harmful model of Banksia Hill and redirect attention and resources to evidence-based justice policies and programs that will genuinely build safer communities.

The Justice Reform Initiative – an alliance which includes former parliamentarians from all sides of politics, as well as some of the country’s most preeminent judicial figures, experts and Aboriginal leaders – is also calling on the WA government to redirect its focus to invest in policies and programs that are proven to deliver better outcomes in terms of community safety.

Executive Director Dr Mindy Sotiri said the McGowan Government could no longer ignore the community outrage surrounding the inhumane treatment of children at Banksia Hill or those now at the adult prison Casuarina.

“The McGowan Government demonstrated its political fortitude with tough policies to keep Western Australians safe during the pandemic,” she said. “The government needs to show that strength and determination to keep WA citizens safe again by listening to the experts, many of whom are calling for Banksia Hill to be shut down.

“The evidence is clear – this heavy-handed, punitive approach to kids does not make the community safer. It causes further trauma to a highly vulnerable group and makes children more likely to reoffend throughout their lives, creating a ‘revolving door’ in and out of the criminal justice system.

“Youth detention disconnects children from their communities and takes them away from the supports and connections that they need to build good lives. It does nothing to address the underlying drivers of incarceration and underpins an increasingly costly and ineffectual system.

“We know from the landmark Telethon Kids Institute study that the overwhelming majority of children at Banksia Hill have some form of neuro-disability, with 9 out of 10 showing signs of neurodevelopmental disorder at the time of the research. Children need care and support, not being locked in a cell for 23 hours a day for days on end.

“We urge Mr McGowan to show he is serious about delivering the best results for Western Australians by focusing on the evidence, not failed ‘tough on crime’ rhetoric, and announce action to close Banksia Hill and reframe the state’s approach to criminal justice, focusing on proven community-led programs and policies.

Evidence shows that there are real alternatives to our incarceration-reliant system that lead to better long-term results and genuinely improve community safety. The Justice Reform Initiative wholeheartedly backs the calls for change from our Western Australians supporters and patrons such as former Children’s Court President Denis Reynolds.”

The Justice Reform Initiative is a multi-partisan alliance supported by more than 120 of our most eminent Australians, including two former Governors-General, former Members of Parliament from all sides of politics, academics, respected Aboriginal leaders, senior former judges, including High Court judges, and others who have added their voices to end Australia’s dangerously high reliance on jails. 

The Initiative is calling for governments around Australia to move away from an entrenched reliance on incarceration as the mainstay of the criminal justice system and adopt an evidence-based approach to deliver better results for taxpayers, communities and people in the criminal justice system.

Our Western Australian Patrons include:

  • The Honourable Fred Chaney AO, former Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Minister for Social Security and Deputy Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party and former Deputy President National Native Title Tribunal and Co-Chair Reconciliation Australia
  • The Honourable Peter Dowding SC, former Premier of Western Australia
  • Professor Pat Dudgeon, PhD BAappSc. GDip (Psych) FAPS, Director of the UWA Centre for Best Practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention, Lead CI on a NHMRC Million Minds Mission Grant Transforming Indigenous Mental Health and Wellbeing, and fellow in the Australian Psychological Society
  • Dennis Eggington, CEO Aboriginal Legal Service Adjunct Professor Curtin University
  • Her Honour Antoinette Kennedy AO, former Chief Judge of the District Court of Western Australia
  • Greg McIntyre SC, Executive Board Member, Law Council of Australia and past president Law Society of Western Australia
  • The Honourable Wayne Martin AC QC, former Chief Justice of Western Australia
  • Her Honour Kate O’Brien, former District Court Judge and President of the Children’s Court
  • The Honourable Denis Reynolds CitWA, former President of the Children's Court of Western Australia and Senior Judge of the District Court of Western Australia
  • Professor Fiona Stanley AC, former Australian of the Year
  • The Honourable Ian Viner AO QC, former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and Industrial Relations and Leader of the Government in the House of Representatives, former President of the WA and Australian Bar Associations and Deputy Chair of the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation
  • Ted Wilkes AO, former Director of the Derbarl Yerrigan Aboriginal Health Service in Perth and former Associate Professor and Co-team Leader of the Aboriginal Australian Research Program at Curtin University’s National Drug Research Institute
  • The Honourable Mary Ann Yeats AM, former President of the Children’s Court of Western Australia and former Judge of the District Court of Western Australia


For more information and a list of patrons of the Justice Reform Initiative visit


Media contact: Pia Akerman 0412 346 746


The Initiative respectfully acknowledges and supports the current and longstanding efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to reduce the numbers of Indigenous people incarcerated in Australia and, importantly, the leadership role which Indigenous-led organisations continue to play on this issue. We also acknowledge the work of many other individuals and organisations seeking change, such as those focused on the rate of imprisonment for women, people with mental health issues, people with disability and others.

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