The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (14:22): Today, two reports are being tabled on the operations of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre. The first report by the Ombudsman is an investigation into the use of spit hoods at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre from October 2016 to June 2019. The report notes that there were 57 reported uses of spit hoods from October 2016 to June 2019. Changes to practices have seen the training centre significantly reduce the use of spit hoods since that time to only five uses in the 2018-19 12-month period and none so far since 31 March this year.
While this reduction is to be commended, it remains that South Australia is the only jurisdiction in Australia that authorises the use of spit hoods in its youth centres, a dubious honour that we should not be proud of. This is why the Department of Human Services will cease the use of spit hoods within 12 months, accepting all three spit hood recommendations made by the Ombudsman. This transition time is necessary to identify, source and implement appropriate alternative options, including training staff in new techniques to ensure a smooth and safe transition.
A fourth recommendation by the Ombudsman relates to the provisions in the Youth Justice Administration Act regarding the use of force in the AYTC. The department has advised me that removing this clause from the act would significantly compromise the chief executive’s ability to provide a safe and secure facility for residents, staff, visitors and the community of South Australia.
We need to remember that the centre houses a very diverse group of young people, many with significant histories of trauma and violence, who have been found guilty of very serious crimes. Not surprisingly, management of these young people can be challenging, and even with the best strategies incidents do occur.
The goal, of course, is to minimise these incidents and to ensure that the use of force is only ever used as a last resort. To this end, the use of force and restraint is being fully reviewed by the department.
The second report being tabled today is by the Training Centre Visitor. The report makes recommendations regarding searches of residents, the use of safe rooms, complaints by residents, dignity and privacy. I am advised that the department has taken on board many of these recommendations and has already addressed some of the issues raised by the TCV, which include:
The department is implementing improvements to reduce the use of partially clothed searches, noting that searches are an important part of security measures to support the safety of residents and staff and to prevent contraband or weapons in the centre. Searches are partially clothed, which means the young person is never naked.
The department is reviewing its practices with regard to isolation and safe rooms, particularly for young people with disability and complex characteristics, again noting that the use of such rooms is designed to keep young people safe and to de-escalate situations.
Young women now have access to an adequate supply of sanitary products, in a private and sensitive manner.
The department is also reviewing other procedures that support individual dignity and privacy, including the potential to turn off monitoring cameras in bedrooms (dependent on an individual risk assessment). CCTV monitoring is, however, essential when an individual is presenting as a high or extreme risk.
Independent scrutiny is important in an area as complex and sensitive as the detention of young people. The government welcomes both reports, and I thank both the Ombudsman and the Training Centre Visitor for their careful attention to these issues.
As I have outlined, a range of improvements have already occurred or are being investigated by the department in response to the recommendations. I thank the department for their approach to continuous improvement in what can be a very challenging environment.