- Mr McGowan said the state needed to “actually hold people to account for what they do” and that “juveniles need to get the message, it’s not ok”.
- First Peoples Disability Network CEO Damian Griffis has described the premier’s language as “shocking” and “abelist”.
The West Australian premier has been accused of ‘ableism’ in his response to young people rioting at the state’s only juvenile detention centre.
Last week Mr McGowan told media that the riots at the prison were a “form of terrorism”.
He also asserted that disabilities, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, were being used as “an excuse” for “appalling behaviour”.
Mr McGowan said the state needed to “actually hold people to account for what they do” and that “juveniles need to get the message, it’s not ok”.
On Friday Mr McGowan attempted to walk back his comments saying disabilities made “things more understandable” but “shouldn’t excuse things”.
The Premier was responding to almost 50 detainees who escaped their cells on Tuesday evening. The inmates rioted for 12 hours, starting fires and climbing onto the roof to throw things at staff and police, before a tactical response team was called to the prison.
The stand-off ended at 9am on Wednesday when inmates were held at gunpoint and told to lie flat on their stomachs on the roof before being detained.
The riots followed a string of incidents at the detention centre with continued calls for it to be shut down.
‘Ignorant’ and ‘shocking’
Disability advocates hit back at the premier’s “ignorant” comments.
First Peoples Disability Network CEO Damian Griffis has described the premier’s language as “shocking” and “abelist”.
“We were deeply disturbed by the comments by the premier and would ask him to reflect upon them,” he told NITV.
“Using highly emotive language that is ignorant of the nature of young people’s disability is deeply concerning.”
‘Not their fault’
Mr Griffis outlined the realities for inmates who live with disabilities, specifically fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
“Some people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders may have difficulty understanding or following instructions. They may also act impulsively, and that is the nature of their disability,” he said.
“That’s not their fault, that’s the nature of their disability. So, we must have systems that understand that.”
Mr Griffis said his organisation believed there were a number of inmates in detention at the facility that “simply shouldn’t be there”.
He raised particular concerns about the practices used in Banksia Hill, including solitary confinement.
Concerns for the over-incarceration of people with disability
Mr Griffis said the over-incarceration of people with disability, including First Nations people, was a rising concern across the country.
“The danger is that you’re criminalising disability,” he said.
“The system is failing to provide meaningful support around a person’s disability … We’re rapidly evolving into prisons becoming places to accommodate young people with disability, and that’s deeply disturbing and completely inappropriate.
“It’s a violation of an individual’s human rights very clearly.”
Mr Griffis believes that the justice system, as it stands now, is “institutionally racist and institutionally ableist”.
“We need to change the entire system,” he warned.