A sporting program at Banksia Hill Detention Centre in Western Australia is changing the lives of the young kids inside.

The brains behind the new eight-week program is the Indigenous Players Alliance (IPA), run by former Fremantle Dockers and Brisbane Lions player, Des Headland, along with support from the WA Department of Justice.

“We got the Stephen Michael Foundation on board to do some umpiring and coaching accreditation with the kids, along with [former Hawthorn player] Chance Bateman and [former Fremantle player] Roger Hayden through the IPA doing the football fundamentals,” Headland said.

Bateman and Hayden are both currently on hiatus as development coaches due to COVID-19, and have joined the program as facilitators.

Chance Bateman running footy drills on the oval. Photo by Hannah Cross.

“We were [also] lucky enough to get … Binar Sports [involved] to do all the basketball fundamentals and mentoring and coaching for the basketball side of things.”

Five weeks in, Headland said the progress he’s seen has been fantastic.

The program came about after the IPA began discussions late last year with the WA Department of Justice about the IPA potentially coming into centres to run mentoring and coaching programs.

The advent of COVID-19 saw a number of Banksia Hill’s programs cancelled, leaving room for the IPA to quickly move in and adapt their program.

“A few programs weren’t happening, [so] we decided to get it done in seven days and set the program up,” Headland said.

“We’re just lucky enough that we’ve got great organisations that we rely on that are really good out in the community, that we know give a great program.”

Banksia Hill is WA’s only juvenile corrections facility that hosts children between ten and 18-years-old.

With a capacity of 260 people, the centre’s current population sits at 110. Seventy percent of that population are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander young people.

Of the 110 held at Banksia Hill, about 100 are participating in the new program each week.

Corrective Services Commissioner Tony Hassall said it’s the best program he’s seen in his 30-plus years in corrective services in terms of whole-of-centre participation and positively changing the culture.

“It’s been an absolutely fantastic collaboration for the benefit of the young people that we look after here at Banksia Hill,” Commissioner Hassall said.

“It’s really changed the feel of the centre here.”

The Commissioner said he is really pleased with how the IPA and Corrective Services worked together to fast track the program at such short notice.

“The IPA came to us … and it was a sort of meeting of minds really. We worked with them jointly on pulling this program together,” he said.

Commissioner Hassall said the staff, management and detainees have all sung the program praises when he’s visited Banksia Hill.

Both the Commissioner and Minister for Corrective Services, Fran Logan, visited Banksia Hill on Tuesday to see the program in action.

Minister Logan said the program’s introduction was perfectly timed.

“The very fact that they could actually bring their program into Banksia Hill even though we have those constraints on corrections institutions [because of COVID-19], it fitted perfectly,” Minister Logan said.

“It provided a series of programs that we knew would engage the young people in here during a time when most of society is in lockdown.”

The Minister said having the IPA step forward at this time has really helped keep the kids active at Banksia Hill.

“They’re learning a whole series of different skills while they’re doing it, [too].”

Headland has hopes for the IPA to expand the program to other corrective services in the state and eventually nationally.

Commissioner Hassall and Minister Logan also said they’d like to see the expansion of this program through the IPA.

“It’d be fantastic if we could get the program across the state,” Headland said.

“I’d love to see these programs run … across Australia.”

By Hannah Cross