GIPPSLAND South MLA Danny O’Brien has called on the state government to consider locating a new youth justice facility next to the existing Fulham Correctional Centre near Sale.
Mr O’Brien said the new facility would provide much-needed jobs for the area, particularly with the impending closure of the Hazelwood Power Station and other economic challenges.
“... we have a ready-made workforce of people who could step up and provide the staff, teachers and other suppliers that would be needed in a youth justice facility,” he said.
“The existing prison provides 250 local jobs and injects about $30 million per annum into the local economy, including through the provision of locally sourced goods and services.
“I am all about jobs for our community and I would welcome the Labor government having a conversation with Sale and surrounds about establishing a new youth jail at Fulham.”
Mr O’Brien said with the Werribee South community in uproar over the proposal to build a new youth SuperMax facility there, there was a chance the government could look at a community that would be more welcoming.
“We already have an existing medium security prison at Fulham and there is vacant land adjacent to that prison that could potentially be the site of a new youth facility.
“There would be synergies with the existing prison, and the state government would find a community that is accustomed to having prisons its midst.
“Sale has had a prison for well over 100 years.”
Mr O’Brien said that if the government came to Sale and had a genuine, open dialogue with the community, he suspected it would likely win support.
“While not everyone would be happy with such an idea, a youth justice facility would be no more adverse for the community than the existing prison.”
However, Eastern Victoria MLC Harriett Shing said the government was looking to place the new facility closer to Melbourne, where most of the offenders live and support services were based.
Ms Shing said she was in favour of a new adult facility in Gippsland, but there were several reasons why a youth justice facility would not be viable.
“The Children and Families Act sets out a very specific set of criteria that apply to youth justice arrangements,” she said.
“Access to family visitation, specialist services, and continuity — there has to be engagement with specific parts of the court system; they have to report every 21 days.
“A replacement for the Parkville facility needs to be built close to the metropolitan courts and support services.
“I’ve asked the secretary of Health and Human Services in estimates about it.
“I think Gippsland is idea for an adult correctional facility, but not a youth justice facility.”
Wellington Shire mayor Carolyn Crossley said while council was keen to attract projects which created jobs in the shire, other issues needed to be addressed before it supported Mr O’Brien’s suggestion.
“Council is focussed on attracting projects that will bring long-term sustainability, job creation and employment to Wellington Shire.
“However, there would be many things to consider in bringing a new youth justice facility to the area, such as adequate public transport links and infrastructure, availability and funding of support services, training facilities and availability of land,” she said.
“There have been no discussions with the government or government agencies around this subject, but we would welcome any opportunity to bring employment and economic growth to the shire for council’s consideration.”