CATHERINE CUSACK: Call for action.
CATHERINE CUSACK: Call for action.

Opposition probes unrest at Acmena

THERE has been no adequate NSW Government explanation why Juvenile Justice staff could not use anti-riot gear during a major disturbance at South Grafton's Acmena detention centre in January, according to the State Opposition.

Opposition Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Catherine Cusack said yesterday she had asked the minister, Tony Kelly, many times why the gear had not been used.

"They (Acmena staff) had special training and special riot gear but were not allowed to use it," she said.

"I think the managers wouldn't give approval. It is the worst managed centre in NSW. It is a relatively new centre but it has never been managed properly. They just have no idea about managing kids in custody."

She said managers should have learnt plenty of lessons from riots in December 2003.

"For it to happen again is an indictment on the centre," she said.

"There have been ongoing difficulties at the centre, including accusations of theft.

"The whole thing gives you the impression of a comedy, but it is anything but funny."

Ms Cusack said she suspected Mr Kelly was refusing to answer questions because the government was embarrassed.

"In the wake of the Acmena riot the minister announced 'urgent' new anti-riot legislation and called on the Opposition to support the new laws. These laws were re-announced last week ? but so far there is still no sign of any legislation to go before Parliament.

"Maybe the new laws are in the same cupboard as all the Acmena riot gear ? in which case it will never see the light of day."

Member for Clarence Steve Cansdell said Mr Kelly needed to explain why the anti-riot gear was not used in January.

"The minister must explain why fully trained and equipped staff at Acmena were denied permission to immediately clamp down on bad behaviour and prevent the incident from becoming a riot," he said.

"By refusing to let workers do their job, the minister is allowing more unnecessary riots," Mr Cansdell said.

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