Staff at the Adelaide Youth Detention Center “feared for their lives” and had to use plastic chairs as shields to defend themselves as two teenagers allegedly attacked them, the Public Service Association said.
- Two boys allegedly attacked staff at Adelaide Youth Training Center in Cavan
- Union accuses chronic understaffing of ‘aggressiveness’ among youth locked in for long hours
- The Department of Social Services purchased safety equipment for staff, but it was not used in this alleged incident
Two 17-year-old male residents have been charged with property damage and aggravated fighting following the alleged incident at the Kurlana Tapa Juvenile Justice Center in Cavan on Monday night.
The incident unfolded around 8pm after the two boys allegedly refused to return to their rooms from the recreation area of their accommodation block.
The Department of Social Services said about $5,000 in damage was done to the center’s kitchen, but no one was injured.
Natasha Brown, general secretary of the Public Service Association SA, which represents workers at the detention center, said she believed the incident was a direct result of understaffing at the center which forced residents to be locked up in their room for up to 11 p.m. a day. .
“They are regularly understaffed, residents are left locked in their rooms for long periods of time because they simply don’t have enough staff to open and run the center normally.
“It obviously creates restlessness and aggression among young people who understandably don’t like being locked up for so long and have vented their frustration on our limbs.”
Ms Brown said that over the weekend residents were only allowed out of their rooms for about an hour.
She said chronic understaffing issues “predated COVID,” but the department failed to address the issue, hire more staff, or provide personal protective equipment.
“These kinds of incidents will only continue to increase,” she said.
A department spokesperson said COVID-19 and the flu had impacted staffing at the center, with seven employees sick as of Monday evening.
“Due to unforeseen staffing shortages, accommodation units have been operating under modified routines. This has meant residents have been asked to return to their rooms earlier than usual,” they said.
The spokesperson said the department is recruiting more staff for the center and is working with the union on staffing issues.
Safety equipment locked in the closet
Ms Brown said the Department of Social Services had recently purchased shields for staff to protect themselves during such incidents, but had not made them available to workers.
“Our members were forced to defend themselves with plastic chairs to use as shields while at the same time real safety equipment was locked away in a closet they had no access to,” she said. declared.
She said she hoped the issues would be addressed urgently when the union meets the minister next week.
The department confirmed that it recently purchased personal protective equipment and will soon be “rolling out accredited training programs in its use to keep staff and residents safe.”