Greens spokesperson for Corrective Services Hon Alison Xamon MLC has today called on the Minister for Corrective Services to urgently address staffing issues in Regional Youth Justice Services (RYJS), as answers to questions asked in Parliament yesterday revealed 23 out of 101 positions (almost one in four) are currently vacant.
“RYJS play a vital role in diverting young people from the criminal justice system and supporting at-risk young people and their families to reduce offending in the community. These crucial services cover a huge area across our north and mid-west regions,” said Ms Xamon.
Ms Xamon said the figure was particularly concerning given the Coroner’s adverse findings about youth justice services in the recent coronial inquest into deaths of 13 children and young people in the Kimberley.
In her report the Coroner identified significant staffing issues in East Kimberley Regional Youth Justice Services which resulted in significant delays referring a vulnerable child to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The child died before seeing a clinician.
“When positions are unfilled, staff have unacceptably high workloads and are placed under significant pressure. In these circumstances of course things are going to fall through the cracks,” said Ms Xamon.
“The work these staff do is with some of the most vulnerable children, as evidenced in the Coroner’s report. It is simply too important to neglect in this manner.”
Ms Xamon said she welcomed the McGowan Government’s commitment to continue the delivery of Regional Youth Justice Services in the Kimberley and Pilbara, after they were established in 2010 using royalties for regions funding, however, it was essential all RYJS offices were appropriately staffed, and that particular effort was put into ensuring positions were filled by local Aboriginal staff wherever possible.
“Figures released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week show that WA has the highest number of Aboriginal children and young people under supervision in Australia. This is a terrible indictment on our current youth justice system. Addressing this issue requires longer term reform, like the development of a Kimberley Juvenile Justice Strategy recently announced by the McGowan Government,” said Ms Xamon. “However, with funding allocated over three years to develop the plan, and the plan only covering the Kimberley, it is essential prevention and diversion activities across all regions are not neglected in the meantime.”