Current youth justice issues in Western Australia
Raise The Age
Raising the age of criminal responsibility remains in the spotlight for youth justice reform in Australia.
Current WA legislation allows children to be criminally charged from age 10 - below the recommended age of 14 from UNICEF. Young people interacting with the criminal justice system and being sent to youth detention at such a young age can be highly detrimental to both judicial and social outcomes, leading to recidivism and trauma. ‘Raise the Age’ is a current advocacy campaign in Western Australia to raise the age at which a young person can be criminally charged from 10 to 14 years old.
Hello Initiative is a firm supporter of the Raise the Age campaign.
Banksia Hill Detention Centre
In WA when a young person enters a detention facility, their age can be anywhere from 10 to 18 years old.
The evidence shows us that the impact of incarceration for young people of this age is poor for both the young person and the broader community, with increased chances of re-offending. The only youth justice prison in Western Australia is Banksia Hill Detention Centre (BHDC), which means children of all genders from 10-18 are in one facility, including young people from regional or remote communities.
Banksia Hill has been heavily criticised for the conditions that young people face inside the facility, including alleged breaches of human rights and dehumanising conditions. Young people inside BHDC generally receive less than 2 hours a day of social interaction, the rest in isolation. There have been 79 self-harm attempts from June 2023.
Hello Initiative deeply opposes the current Department of Justice approach to BHDC and are disappointed by the State governments lack of decisive action on this matter. Hello Initiative will actively and enthusiastically participate in any projects to improve BHDC and youth incarceration in WA.
In 2022, 17 young people were moved out of BHDC and placed into ‘Unit 18’, a dedicated youth unit inside Casuarina, an adult maximum security prison.
Inside, young people have been separated from the rest of the prison population by a cloth thrown over the fence, but can still hear the noise from other prisoners. Sending young people to a maximum security prison that is not fit for their needs can place young people at further risk of significant psychological harm.
Due to these harsh conditions, young people inside the adult service can have a further increased risk of repeat offending. The unacceptable conditions that are placed on young individuals within this sub-system of youth justice have also resulted in further instances of self-harm.
In October 2023, a young person took his own life inside Unit 18. This tragedy further reinforces the seriously inappropriate and harmful conditions experienced by young people inside Unit 18. Hello Initiative wishes to pay our respects to the young person’s family and community, and commits to continue to work to improve the youth justice system in Western Australia.
Further alternative and diversionary pathways still needed.
Alternative and diversionary pathways for young people to prevent re-offending are essential to achieving the aims of a robust criminal justice system in both keeping the wider community safe and supporting vulnerable communities. Supporting young people with diverse and holistic trauma-informed services can help them address challenges and barriers so they don’t continue down a pathway to ongoing engagement with the criminal justice system.
Social Reinvestment describes five pathways to best support young people in the justice system. These include thriving and equipped communities, responsive support, prioritised diversion, rehabilitation-focused justice, and therapeutic care focused on reintegration. The program can help young people by teaching them new skills and competencies to aid in reintegration into the community.
We recommend clicking the link below to visit the
Social Reinvestment WA website and supporting one of the strongest and most informed voices in WA’s youth justice sector.
Donate an unused mobile
We connect young people in the system with refurbished smartphones through the Mobile Support Program (MSP)
Write to your MP
Email your Premier and Attorney-General to tell that that you support raising the age of incarcertion
Stay up to date with the latest WA youth justice news by signing up to our newsletter