Information provided to this Inquiry suggested that there was an increasing number of apathetic and disaffected staff. Discussions with management, monitor reports, and discussions with staff suggested that lockdowns became a first resort rather than a last resort. In addition, the cleanliness of wings declined, staff were not adhering to security protocols, and overall discipline issues were present. A Banksia Hill YCO described it as a “contagious apathy”, with pride overall declining to the point where “you felt like giving up”. In these circumstances, it is unsurprising that staff shortages were at such elevated levels.
Staff informed the Inquiry that they felt a lack of support by peers and management. The constant changes in management, the lack of Head Office support provided to the Director of Banksia Hill prior to the amalgamation (giving him little time to devote to staff issues) and the lack of management recognition of high performing staff would certainly not have helped in this regard.
It appears that senior officers and unit managers bear some responsibility for this situation, as the discipline issues, apathy, and fear among staff do not appear to have been sufficiently challenged.
If a unit is left in an unclean state, or if staff are not unlocking detainees, it is not the sole responsibility of top management to intervene. It should be the unit manager (who is the line manager for YCO’s) or the senior officer (who is the line manager for unit managers). The individuals in these roles need to be competent role models for the staff they supervise and they need to enforce the rules.
From discussions with staff, most genuinely want to rehabilitate detainees – they do not want to be prison officers or ‘key-turners’. Many were deeply saddened by the loss of activities, such as sporting events, that occurred during 2012. However, there was clearly a minority of staff who attempted to propagate fear in the staffing group and influence recently recruited YCOs. A ministerial brief in 2012 suggested approximately 10 per cent of staff fitted into this category. A similar proportion of respondents in the employee survey believed that the riot was due to the excessive freedom of detainees, despite the unprecedented levels of lockdowns that were occurring pre-riot. These views need to be assertively challenged by all levels of management.
While the construction delays, staff shortages, management instability/ disengagement, the handling of the amalgamation and the serious incidents most certainly contributed to the low morale of staff at Banksia Hill pre-riot, there are some chronic cultural issues (fear and apathy) that require assertive action. These cultural issues persist to this day, and require a multifaceted approach to be improved (including sufficient staffing, competent middle management, an implemented performance management system and an underlying philosophy to guide work).