Review of Bimberi finds evidence of good practice, but more support needed for children with disability

The ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) yesterday welcomed the release of the Healthy Centre Review of Bimberi Youth Justice Centre (Bimberi) from the ACT Office of the Inspector of Correctional Services (OICS).

The Review highlighted that most of the young people housed at Bimberi felt physically and emotionally safe, and that the OICS observed respectful interactions between young detainees and staff. The Review also acknowledged the positive work of Bimberi staff and highlighted the strength of the centre’s individualised responses to young people.

However, the Review also called for continuous improvements to Bimberi through 93 findings resulting in 27 recommendations.

In late 2020, ACTCOSS held consultations between the ACT Inspector of Correctional Services and community organisations that work with young people that are housed in Bimberi to inform the Review.

ACTCOSS CEO Dr Emma Campbell said: “The ACT Government must respond in a timely way to all recommendations in the Review. It must prioritise staff training and data collection on young people with disability in Bimberi, the provision of high level throughcare programs and increased access to legal services.

“Even though young people with disabilities are overrepresented in the youth justice system, there is currently no clear screening mechanism to identify and support the needs of those young people at Bimberi.

“Bimberi does not currently provide adequate training in disability awareness for youth detention officers and there is no data collection on the health needs of young people at Bimberi, even though similar data is collected in other jurisdictions.”

Dr Campbell continued: “Given the high rates of recidivism in the ACT, adequate investment in supportive throughcare programs is essential for the care and wellbeing of these young people.

“ACTCOSS thanks the OICS for conducting a substantive review of the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre, for consulting with the community sector and for including the voices of the young people housed within the centre in its review.

“It is important that these young people’s voices are heard and that rigorous oversight mechanisms are in place to protect and care for them while they are detained.

“We call on the ACT Government to urgently accept, fund and implement all the Review’s recommendations.

“As we work to raise the age of criminal responsibility in the ACT to at least 14, we will need further investment in community, throughcare and wrap-around services to care for and protect young people, their families and the broader community.

“We must continue to work towards an ACT where children are not in prison,” Dr Campbell said.

ACTCOSS advocates for social justice in the ACT and represents not-for-profit community organisations.

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