27 November 2006
ASHLEY YOUTH DETENTION CENTRE SELECT COMMITTEE
Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - 'No man is an island.'
Ms Thorp - I've heard that before.
Mr Aird - That's new.
Mr Parkinson - Who wrote that?
Mr FINCH - I am having trouble with my own speeches. I am using somebody's else's now. 'Any man's death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.' Mr President, that was the seventeenth century English poet, John Donne, reminding us that we are all part of the community of mankind. Everyone's death affects us all. I am being dramatic there, but that quote is relevant in our debate on the member for Rowallan's motion today. It is no use believing that what happens at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre has nothing to do with our own children. Those troubled kids at Ashley are all our own children. We must find a better way to help them back into our society so they can live useful and fulfilling lives.
This is a big problem, Mr President, but it is not an insurmountable one. The first thing we need to do is reject the notion that the purpose of Ashley is for punishment or, in the American terms, correction. As the Leader has said, it is not a prison, it is a rehabilitation centre and that was noted a couple of times by the member for Rowallan. Children do not escape from Ashley, they abscond. When a young person leaves Ashley they should have the life skills and attitude, with help from the youth justice systems, to find a job and a life.
Mr President, I think the most disturbing figure on Ashley is that in 2005 at least 45 per cent of the young people were there for at least the second time. In other words, our rehabilitation system for young people is not working as it should. At best, it is only half working. We need to find out why this is the case. We need to look at every potential approach to rehabilitating our kids before they reach the adult prison system because when that happens our rehabilitation statistics are even worse. I know that there are well-intentioned people working in both the youth and the prisons systems. But it seems to me that once a young person reaches the adult system there is little possibility for turning back. That is why Ashley is vital in the rehabilitation process; not just Ashley itself, but also the support system for young people leaving Ashley and trying to make a go of it in society.
The member for Rowallan's call for an inquiry is not an indictment of those working to help these kids. It is a way for our community to face up to the problem and, through a select committee, come up with solutions.
I was just thinking about all the those reviews that the Leader had mentioned, one as recently as 2005. Let me just say that the performance indicators are not good. Our young people are far too important to leave their wellbeing to the State Government or to a system. They are all our children. We should all be involved in solving the problems they face.
Therefore, Mr President, I support the member for Rowallan's motion. I congratulate him on his demonstration of concern for our next generation. In a better world our children would not reach Ashley, and a select committee could well bear that thought in the forefront of their minds as they take on this challenge.