Overall, there have been concerning levels of absenteeism among staff at Banksia Hill for an extended period of time, with the situation appearing to intensify in the immediate lead-up to and aftermath of the amalgamation. It needs to be emphasised that credit is due to the staff who turn up to work day in day out despite the high level of absenteeism that is present among some of their peers.
Examination of the sign on sheets of uniformed staff in the month preceding the riot showed that on average, out of approximately 80 uniformed staff rostered each day, 22 staff members were absent. On some days, over 30 staff were absent. Even after additional staff were brought in to cover the shifts through overtime, on average the facility was still down 15 uniformed staff every day.
This situation was extremely costly for the Department in terms of overtime and increased the possibility of staff burnout and further absences. Overall, detainees need far more intensive supervision and a higher duty of care compared to adult prisoners and such chronic staff shortages make it extremely difficult to run a structured day which meets detainees specific rehabilitative needs and provides them with appropriate levels of out-of-cell time.
Staff shortage induced lockdowns were said to be frequent preceding the riot, and while accurate data on their frequency is not available, it is certain that the lockdowns resulted in higher levels of detainee boredom and agitation.
The comparative strain on operations can most clearly be envisaged when you compare Banksia Hill’s absenteeism statistics to the privately run Acacia Prison. While Banksia Hill has 126.6 hours of workers’ compensation leave and 107.3 hours of personal leave per FTE, Acacia has 10.3 hours of workers’ compensation leave and 50.5 hours of personal leave per FTE. Hence, Banksia Hill has over 10 times the average hours of workers’ compensation leave and double the average personal leave compared to Acacia Prison. In terms of total hours, Banksia Hill has approximately triple the amount of unplanned leave despite having 100 less FTE and one-fifth the custodial population.