Staff accused of sexually and physically abusing child detainees have been allowed to keep working at a Tasmanian youth detention centre that has a “culture of brutality”.
The Ashley Youth Detention Centre, which has been in operation since 1999, is under the microscope as part of a commission of inquiry into child sexual abuse in state institutions.
One former detainee told the inquiry on Thursday he was raped, bashed and assaulted by guards who withheld his medication in return for sexual acts.
Counsel assisting the inquiry, Rachel Ellyard, said despite youth justice reforms over decades the centre has remained a place of punitive, dangerous and damaging practices.
The state government in September announced the centre would close by 2024. It has said all current detainees are safe.
“The accounts of abuse the commission has received from detainees who were in Ashley in 2000 are … similar to accounts from detainees who were there a year ago,” Ms Ellyard said.
Family members of detainees will give evidence on Friday, as well as the director of custodial youth justice at the department of communities.
Ms Ellyard said concerns and gaps had been identified in multiple reports to governments who have responded “poorly” to abuse allegations.
“It appears from the materials we’ve received that, at a government level, there’s been no action taken through information received through redress schemes,” she said.
“(This) meant that staff were permitted to remain at Ashley working with children despite allegations of serious physical and sexual abuse being made against them; in some cases by multiple complainants.”
Two current youth workers at the centre told the inquiry of a dangerous work environment, a lack of proper training and lack of support from their superiors.
“Staff are assaulted on site regularly. (We had a) brand new worker a couple of days ago punched in the face,” youth worker Sarah Spencer said.
“We’ve got inexperienced staff who are not trained properly. (They’re) only going to make more mistakes, and then it’s going to be their fault again. It shouldn’t be.”
Ms Ellyard said none of the evidence over seven days of hearings into the centre should come as a surprise to the government.
“The themes which emerge again and again through reports include a culture of brutality towards and the dehumanising of children.”