A 16-year-old First Nations boy died at a Perth hospital on Thursday night after being found unresponsive in his cell at a youth detention centre last week.
The boy, who has family from regional Western Australia, was given emergency first aid upon being discovered in his cell, before being taken to hospital by paramedics.
He was reportedly hospitalised due to a self-harm incident. TDA has not been able to independently verify these reports.
The boy died in hospital, surrounded by family, at 10pm on Thursday night.
The Justice Department released a statement on Friday expressing its “deepest sympathies” to the boy’s family, friends and community for their “tragic loss”.
The death will face a mandatory inquest, in addition to a pre-existing investigation into the circumstances around the boy becoming unresponsive last week.
Youth detention facility
The boy was being held at the Unit 18 youth detention facility. This is part of Casuarina Prison, the main maximum-security prison for adult male prisoners in WA.
Unit 18 was made a youth detention centre in July 2022 after cells and facilities were repeatedly destroyed at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre, a maximum-security juvenile facility in an outer Perth suburb.
It was put forward as a method to temporarily house “disruptive” boys detained at Banksia Hill.
Unit 18 report
A report from an official inspection of Unit 18 and Banksia Hill published this year said the state’s youth custody system was in crisis and conditions were worsening.
The report attributed high self-harm, suicide rates, staff assaults and rioting to the extended time detained children spend in their cells. It described “a self-perpetuating cycle” where “young people’s isolation increases their anxieties, anger and frustration”.
Mental health workers were said to be managing 30 at-risk children on any given day.
Future of Unit 18 youth detention centre
Unit 18 was initially meant to close by the first half of this year. It’s now expected to remain open indefinitely.
Last week, WA Premier Roger Cook conceded that Unit 18 wasn’t meeting safety and care standards. However he described it as a “necessary evil” while the state develops future youth detention plans.
Detainees and staff at Unit 18 and Banksia Hill will be provided counselling and support services following the boy’s death.