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Question: Youth Treatment Orders

1 November 2023

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS (14:47): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before a question without notice to the Attorney-General on the topic of youth treatment orders.

Leave granted.

The Hon. R.A. SIMMS: In her report tabled in parliament yesterday, the Youth Treatment Orders Visitor, Shona Reid, provided serious concerns about the implementation of youth treatment orders which allow the SA Youth Court to order drug-dependent children in detention to receive mandatory treatment. Ms Reid described her commentary in the report as 'scathing' and stated that, and I quote from the report:

The Youth Treatment Order Visitor believes that the rollout of the Youth Treatment Order process from November 2021 put detained young people to further trauma and harm, with poor preparation for the scheme's implementation and a distinct lack of child-centred practices and policies and a rights-based approach.

One of the recommendations made in that report is that:

The Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre not be used as a secure holding facility for children and young people who primarily have therapeutic needs for which it does not have a real and resourced capacity to address those needs.

My questions to the Attorney-General are:

1. What is the government doing to address the rights of young people in our justice centres?

2. When will the Malinauskas government raise the age of criminal responsibility to avoid children being caught up in the justice system?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:49): I thank the honourable member for his question and I will answer it particularly in relation to the preamble he gave in terms of youth treatment orders. Youth treatment orders, as we know them in South Australia, came into operation in November 2001 with commencement of part 7A of the Controlled Substances Act 1984. Their introduction was intended as a last resort for young people who are drug dependent, have refused to engage in voluntary treatment, pose a risk to themselves or other people, and only where all other appropriate treatment orders have been exhausted.

The youth treatment orders program sits alongside health services already available to young people detained in Kurlana Tapa, including mental health support, medical treatment and voluntary drug programs. Their introduction was intended to provide that circuit breaker only in the most serious of cases. To date, and I think as was outlined in the report the honourable member referred to, there has been one youth treatment order application, which was made in October 2022.

The assessment order was granted for the assessment; however, the detention order was withdrawn so no treatment orders have actually been made since the introduction of the scheme in South Australia. I am aware that in accordance with section 54P of the Controlled Substances Act, a review of the operation of that part of the act will need to be completed after the third anniversary of the commencement of the section, so that would be three years from November 2021, so from November next year, there will be a review of that section of the act. As I said, there has not been a single order yet made under that provision.