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The McGowan Government has announced a review of the Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre set up in Caversham by the former government. Picture: ANITA McINNES

Bennett Brook disability justice review

A REVIEW of the Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre will include the appropriateness of its location in Caversham and the processes used to engage the community in its establishment.

When the former Barnett government located the centre in Caversham it sparked a lot of opposition from the community and the City of Swan.

When the city first advertised the proposal it received 382 submissions of which 377 were objections.

The city said it first heard about the Caversham site being selected on June 11, 2013 when it received from the Disability Services Commission a copy of the information sent to residents.

In Justice centre law passes (Echo News, February 2015) the city’s chief executive officer Mike Foley said he had been told the information during a confidential conversation but had been instructed not to discuss the matter until former Disability Services minister Helen Morton had released a statement.

In August 2015 Community Campaigning Against Residential Prisons member and Caversham resident Karen Mercer said she supported the idea of a disability justice centre but had a problem with where it was located in Caversham.

At the time Bassendean MLA Dave Kelly said the Barnett government had said the centres would not be put near schools and residential areas and that was what the community was still really angry about.

This week Disability Services Minister Stephen Dawson said Bennett Brook Disability Justice Centre would undergo a full review, as promised by the Labor Party back in 2016 when it was in opposition.

He said the review would also include the extent to which the centre was fulfilling its purpose as a Declared Place, as specified by the Declared Places (Mentally Impaired Accused) Act 2015, strategies for maximising the value to the community of operating a Declared Place as envisaged by the Act, lessons to be learnt from the establishment and operation of the centre and options available to the State Government in relation to the future of the centre.

Mr Dawson said the centre’s review would be conducted by Alan Carter, who was an experienced consultant with particular skills in community engagement.

Developmental Disability WA chief Taryn Harvey was unavailable for comment but last year after two men absconded from the centre resulting in an outcry from nearby residents she said the political campaign against the centre was founded on an incorrect contention that people detained under the mentally impaired accused law were inherently a threat.

“I believe the disability justice centre was, and remains the correct facility for the placement of the two men who absconded,” she said.

“It has taken 19 years for government to create a declared place as a custodial alternative to prison since Jim McGinty introduced the law reform in 1996.’’

Residents for the centre are selected based on recommendations by the independent Mentally Impaired Accused Review Board.

Ms Harvey said judges were legally required to detain mentally-impaired accused in custody unless they were satisfied it was in the interest of the person or the public to release them unconditionally.

Community Campaigning Against Residential Prisons were contacted for comment.

By Anita McInnes

About Anita

Anita Mcinnes received a highly commended in the 2009 WA Media Awards suburban section for her reporting. Two of her sons were born at Swan District Hospital and for many years she was a partner in a small business, which operated in the Gingin-Muchea-Bullsbrook area. As a mature age student Anita studied journalism at Curtin University before working in Busselton, Dunsborough and Rockingham with West Regionals. She says the best part of her job is meeting eastern suburb residents and visiting the many attractions in the area.

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