Banksia Hill: Staff shortages lead to attempted stabbing and thousands in roof damage

Staff shortages and an escalating inmate population are sending WA’s juvenile detention centre into meltdown.

Last week, there were 129 detainees at Banksia Hill Detention Centre and, at times, only nine officers on duty for a night shift, putting welfare checks and safe evacuation in an emergency situation at risk.

Chronic understaffing means more lockdowns for detainees, with less access to supportive programs and educational activities. CPSU/CSA Secretary Rikki Hendon says this leads to frustration and acts of aggression. 

In the past six days, three officers have been taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital for assessment and treatment, as well as an attempted stabbing in the neck, with the broken handle of a dustpan and brush set.

“The number of detainees continues to increase yet there are significant staffing shortages, often as low as 50% less staff than required, which is putting safety at risk.  

“These young people are acting out because they are continuously in lockdown, continuously denied rehabilitation programs and education because the facility can’t operate with such low staffing ratios. 

“Officers can’t be left exposed, but detainees act out when the centre is under stress and is forced on to rolling lockdowns,” she said. 

On Thursday the roof of Turner Unit, a general population residential unit, was significantly damaged, with staff reporting well over $100,000 in clean-up costs. 

“After recently being made habitable again, from a previous roof incident in June, we’ve been told every flue, air-con unit or structure on the roof was destroyed, with detainees hurling the missiles at staff during the incident,” Ms Hendon said.

Staff are exhausted and demoralised, but their top priority is safety for their colleagues and the young people they are custodians of. To make that happen we need better safety measures and staffing ratios immediately.”

Listen to CPSU/CSA Branch Secretary, Rikki Hendon discuss the situation on radio below