Indigenous youth in incarceration.

Legislative Council
Wednesday 27, 2016 Question Time.


 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:08):  I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question to the Minister for Correctional Services and Police on the topic of Indigenous youth in incarceration.

            Leave granted.

 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS:  As members would be well aware, the Four Corners program this past Monday night portrayed horrific cruelty inflicted on children as young as 10 years old in the Don Dale juvenile detention facility in the Northern Territory. Of course, this is in the context of acceptably and inequitably high youth incarceration rates in this country, and comes some 25 years after the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, with its 339 recommendations. My questions to the minister are:

  1. Have any children from the lands, or from South Australia, ended up in Northern Territory juvenile detention in the past 10 years, because, of course, there is a transient nature (particularly in Alice Springs) that the minister is aware of?

  2. Has the minister been approached or has he initiated conversations about issuing a letters patent to participate in a royal commission into this particular matter as announced by Prime Minister Turnbull?

  3. What is the percentage currently of young people in detention in our state?

  4. What is the status of the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in our state?

     The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (15:10):  I would like to thank the honourable member for her important question. I think any decent Australian would have been horrified at the report on Monday night. I have to say that I watched it and was somewhat shocked to see that that sort of treatment of children could occur in our country today. I think many of us within the community who care about correctional services, and I know the honourable member is certainly one of those people, would have been horrified to see that this sort of thing has been going on in modern Australia.

     Of course, as the honourable member would be aware, I am not the responsible minister when it comes to juvenile detention, so for the parts of her question that are best addressed to the honourable member in the other place, I am more than happy to do that. But she did touch on a few questions that I think I may be able to help with, not necessarily in a juvenile context, but in an adult context.

     Regarding the question of the letters patent, I am not aware at this stage of any such request. Of course, if one were to be made then that would be considered by the government as appropriate to do so. I understand that the royal commission at this stage is being aimed at what is happening in the Northern Territory, although it may be the case that those terms of reference are expanded and if that occurs, of course, the government will consider any requests from the commonwealth that are made.

     In terms of the percentage of prisoners, a figure that I have referred to in the past in this forum and one, of course, which is rather concerning is that, as of 30 June this year, I am advised that 22.6 per cent of the adult prisoner population in South Australia is Aboriginal. It is a massive over-representation. I know that many of us are concerned about that. Of course, that is in comparison to an Aboriginal population in the state of South Australia, which I understand is around about 3 to 4 per cent, so it is a massive over-representation.

     Regarding the other parts of the Four Corners report, I am happy to advise the chamber that I have had a number of discussions only this morning regarding this issue. Naturally, I have had a discussion with my chief executive, although that is in respect of adult prisoners. I am currently the acting minister for minister Bettison from the other place who is currently overseas, so I have urgently sought a meeting and had one this morning with the relevant chief executive and his key executive directors regarding this issue and we have had discussion about that. I am also in the process of writing to them formally on behalf of the government to seek assurances that the sort of behaviour that we saw on Four Corners on Monday night is not happening in South Australia. The information I have received thus far, which has only been verbal, gives me every indication that there is no reason for concern, but as a government we are going to go through a process to seek more information regarding that because it is an important issue to all Australians in light of what we saw on Monday night.


 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:13):  Arising from the minister's answer—and I share his concerns about the behaviour of some of those detention centre officers—if a correctional services worker in this state was to try to cover a CCTV camera, would a penalty apply for that action?

 The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (15:14):  A number was given to me this morning. It is a very large number of CCTV cameras that exist in our relatively new juvenile detention facilities in South Australia. It is very large. We also have obviously a large amount of CCTV cameras in adult prisons as well. If a DCS employee, a correctional services officer, attempted to cover up a CCTV camera with the view to obviously try to hide some actions they were engaging in, that would be something of great concern to me.

 As it stands right now, I am not familiar with what the immediate consequence of that would be for a DCS employee. Of course, the disciplining of that employee should they attempt to do such a thing would be a matter immediately before the chief executive. What I am happy to undertake, so that I can provide some more information to the honourable member, is what the rules and procedures are around CCTV footage in Corrections and, again, I am happy to share that information assuming, of course, that it is appropriate to do so.

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