19 March 2024

Ms MARYANNE STUART (Heathcote) (13:08): My question is addressed to the Minister for Corrections. Will the Minister update the House on the New South Wales Government's response to the release of the final report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into offending by former Corrections Officer Wayne Astill at Dillwynia Correctional Centre?

Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields—Minister for Better Regulation and Fair Trading, Minister for Industry and Trade, Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology, Minister for Building, and Minister for Corrections) (13:08): I thank the member for Heathcote for her question and her interest in this important subject. The final report of the Hon. Peter McClellan, AM, KC, on the Special Commission of Inquiry into offending by former Corrections Officer Wayne Astill at Dillwynia Correctional Centre makes for sober reading, but it also provides a blueprint for reform. When I first heard about Mr Astill's deplorable behaviour, I acted quickly to establish the inquiry.

Mr Astill's offending behaviour against female inmates, which occurred over a period of almost five years from 2014 to 2019 before his arrest in February 2019 and subsequent conviction in 2022, raised serious concerns about the management and governance at Dillwynia, and Corrective Services more broadly. As the report makes plain, the concerns were well founded. The special commission of inquiry has validated the stories of survivors. For too long, crimes against those in custody were ignored and there was silence. I also take this opportunity to acknowledge the Corrective Services staff who raised concerns about the issue. The offences and the systemic issues detailed in the report are deplorable and unacceptable. As Mr McClellan stated:

It is apparent that problems in the management structure of CSNSW and the incapacity of some managers have undermined public confidence in CSNSW facilities … it will be important that a process of review of the entire institution is undertaken, and appropriate changes implemented.

The Government will take time to carefully consider that important 804-page report and its recommendations and will provide a response in the coming months. The Government is committed to undertaking the necessary reform to ensure that inmates are properly protected, corrections officers are supported by sound management and strong integrity processes, and public confidence in the Corrective Services system is restored. That significant report demands a detailed and considered response, but it is clear that significant reform of Corrective Services is required to restore the public trust and confidence in what is an important element of our justice system.

Consistent with the recommendations and suggestions of the commissioner, change will not be limited to the one facility and the 31 recommendations of the report but will also go to broader corrections and other facilities. It is abundantly clear that significant reform will be required within the whole Corrective Services system. I have asked the Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice to lead the development of the Government response and the taskforce which will be responsible for the implementation of the recommendations of that important inquiry's findings. [Extension of time]

I also take this opportunity to advise the House about the leadership of corrections. Mr Kevin Corcoran's appointment as the Commissioner of Corrective Services ended on 13 March 2024. He has been on leave since giving his evidence to the inquiry in November 2023. The Secretary of the Department of Communities and Justice holds the employer function for the Commissioner of Corrective Services. The secretary made the decision to end Mr Corcoran's appointment and informed me of that decision. That is appropriate. Mr Leon Taylor will remain the acting commissioner.

I also advise the House of several steps that have already been taken to improve the safety of inmates and the management of Dillwynia. They include establishing a standalone governor for Dillwynia, installing additional CCTV cameras in priority areas, providing specialist trauma counsellors to support victims, establishing a sexual misconduct reporting line to provide confidential reporting mechanisms, providing anti-sexual harassment training for all corrections staff, and the introduction of body-worn cameras for all uniformed staff at Dillwynia. As I have said, Mr McClellan's report makes for disturbing reading, but it also lays out a blueprint for reform not just of Dillwynia but, as recommended by Mr McClellan, of the Corrective Services system as a whole. Colleagues, we all need to work together to restore the public trust and confidence in Corrective Services. I call on all members of the Parliament for bipartisan support for those important reforms. I look forward to updating the House as we work through Mr McClellan's important recommendations.