HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [5.21 pm]: As I indicated previously, I have been going through a number of the annual reports. I want to make some comments on the annual report by the chief advocate on behalf of residents of declared places under the Declared Places (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act tabled on Tuesday. It is a very small report because, despite the Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre being a 10-bed facility, over the course of the year that the annual report covers, only three residents were in and out of that centre. For good reason, the Chief Mental Health Advocate, Deborah Colvin, has not gone into a huge amount of detail on the individual lives of those residents, because that would identify them. However, I know who these residents are because I have been working with their families. I have been attempting to advocate for them behind the scenes. I have to say that I continue to be very frustrated that we still have not had reform of the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act, which would make life immeasurably better, in line with our human rights obligations, for these residents. I also have concerns about the disability justice centre.
The disability justice centre was established under the previous government as a long overdue reform to establish declared places. People put on a custody order under the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act can effectively go to three places. If they have primarily a mental health issue and are at the time deeply mentally unwell, they can go to the Frankland Centre at Graylands Hospital or they can go to prison. The disability justice centre was established to ensure that there was a declared place for mentally impaired accused people who were primarily living with some sort of cognitive or intellectual disability. It was recognised that prison is not the right place to hold the majority of these people. Bear in mind, members, we are talking about people who are not culpable for their offending behaviours because they are simply unaware of their offending behaviours.
The report has referred very cautiously and carefully—because it does not identify people—to some of the challenges that these residents are facing. As I have already indicated, the lack of reform of criminal law for mentally impaired accused is a key issue. I really desperately hope that, after the election, should this government be re-elected, which I am anticipating it will be, we will see some long-awaited reform. I was lucky enough to have been entrusted to see a draft copy of that legislation, and I think it is really good. I am really hoping that we are going to see that reform sooner rather than later, and I know that it will mean the world to these families as well.
I am concerned about what is happening within the service itself. I would like to read directly from the report. This comes from the chief advocate. It states —
The Chief Advocate and Senior Advocate met with the Deputy Director General of the Department of Communities and the Director, Disability Justice Service on 9 January 2020 raising concerns about the service model under which the Disability Justice Centre operates. In particular, that it is not catering for the wide and diverse range of challenging behaviours of people on Custody Orders. The Chief Advocate raised concerns that people who could substantially benefit from the Disability Justice Centre are being excluded, even though the Act clearly contemplates and makes provision for people with challenging behaviours to be admitted. The current model of care and associated staffing do not allow for this.
This means the 10 bed Disability Justice Centre is not being fully utilised and mentally impaired accused on Custody Orders who might otherwise meet the criteria in the Act are continuing to be detained in prison or the forensic mental health secure ward, the Frankland Centre. The Frankland Centre does not provide the type of rehabilitative or habilitative care that can be provided at the Disability Justice Centre and has an increasing bed shortage with people in prison needing an inpatient bed waiting weeks, and in some cases months, to get admitted.
We should be very concerned about this. I understand that we are not talking about a very electorally popular group of people, but these are some of the most vulnerable people within our community. I can tell members about one gentlemen who has been denied access to the disability justice centre. He has been in prison and, specifically as a result of being in prison, he has engaged in acts of self-harming that have meant that he has been repeatedly sent back to hospital. When I talk about self-harm, I mean things like swallowing nail scissors. These are very serious issues. When our disability justice centre has a model of care that prevents people who desperately need to be there from accessing it, the purpose for which this entire service was established, that is something we should be very concerned about.
Particularly in the case of this guy I am referring to, I have seen all the reports, and all the health professionals around him have made it quite clear that the disability justice centre is exactly where he needs to be. I have also seen the reports that have come out of the disability justice centre and its rationale for why it does not believe that he should be there. Frankly, making my own assessment, I am very clear that the problem is the way that the disability justice centre is approaching how it deals with these individuals. It will always be the case that These people are going to be complex and their behaviours are going to be challenging. That is the very nature of their disability. That does not mean that we give up. That does not mean that we say, “We can’t do anything to help you; you have no choice but to be in prison.” Certainly, in the case of this guy, all the professionals around him who know what they are talking about have made it very clear that prison is not where he needs to be.
I want members to think about the disability justice centre and the residents who are there, and I want members to think about how they would feel, particularly those who are parents, if their child was in an accident, sustained a head injury and as a result ended up in this situation. That is the scenario we are talking about. We are talking about parents who love their kids. For reasons beyond their control, these kids have ended up with a range of cognitive and intellectual disabilities that have meant that they constantly fall foul of the justice system and need quite intensive supports.
I can tell members that I will read this report next year whether I am inside or outside this place, because I was advocating in this space when I was not a member of Parliament and I will continue to do so. I hope that in the next report we will read that the Criminal Law (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act—particularly the draft that has been so carefully crafted—has been debated and passed in Parliament, and I really hope to see some sort of transformation around the culture and the way that the model of service is being delivered within the disability justice centre. I particularly want to read that virtually all the beds are full and that they are full because we have managed to successfully transfer people from prisons to where they are able to get appropriate therapeutic supports.