Banksia Hill was built as an open campus which was intended to provide a secure and therapeutic environment for detainees. The campus style of the centre moved away from the small enclosed designs of the past. The physical size and layout required staff to be trained in defensive techniques for first response to incidents.
For this type of facility to be effective a delicate balance must be maintained between physical, process and dynamic security. Ideally this balance would be determined though a clearly documented and understood operating philosophy. However, no clear philosophy was in place at Banksia Hill at the time of the riot. For further information on this issue refer to this Inquiry’s Security Review Paper.
A clear operating philosophy was particularly needed for Banksia Hill given the merging of staff cultures which followed the decommissioning of other juvenile centres in the period prior Banksia Hill’s opening. Associated with this mix of staff from different sites with different practices, there was also a change in base qualifications for Youth Custodial Officers. Initially officers obtained qualifications in youth work; however in 2008 new staff were required to gain a Certificate IV in Correctional Practice to become a Youth Custodial Officer. The change in base qualifications, as well as the merging of cultures, resulted in conflicting views among staff on the right balance between welfare and security.
Approximately four months before the riot the Rangeview Remand Centre (‘Rangeview’) amalgamated with Banksia Hill, making it the sole juvenile detention centre in Western Australia. Despite a lead time of several years from the time the decision was made to amalgamate the facility to the actual amalgamation the process was poorly managed. Overall, the amalgamation was not a success. The distinct cultures of Rangeview and Banksia Hill were not taken into account, and the absence of shared policies, procedures, and an underlying philosophy led to divisions among staff and confusion for detainees. These issues were compounded by a lack of leadership including five substantive changes in the position of Superintendent of Banksia Hill/Director of Youth Custodial since the start of 2009, with three of those changes occurring during the pivotal amalgamation year.
This Paper explores the emergency management of the riot on 20 January 2013, including the Department’s ability to prevent a riot, the level of preparation for the riot and its response and recovery.
However, regardless of improvements the Department can make in these areas it is important to note that the detainees concerned made choices to be involved in the riot. The individual actions of detainees during the night are not the focus of this review. The examination of individual actions is a matter within the jurisdiction of the Western Australia Police (‘police’) and the Department. Identification of areas for improvement for the Department does not excuse the behaviour of the detainees involved in the riot.