A COMPLAINT that took more than 18 months to resolve and ended with the ombudsman declaring the internal investigation inadequate was typical of the way problems were dealt with in the Ashley Youth Detention Centre, a former employee has said.
The ombudsman is responsible for investigating complaints about Ashley, but critics say the policy of turning the matter over to centre management to investigate and a lengthy resolution process meant it was effectively useless.
Former Ashley worker David Bell said a complaint that he made on behalf of a resident in October 2008 about staff apparently eating food left out for residents went largely unresolved until July 2010, when then ombudsman Simon Allston found the centre's investigation had been "not adequate".
In a letter obtained by The Examiner, Mr Allston said the investigation was shallow and undocumented, and "any alleged abuse of authority in a setting such as Ashley needs to be dealt with assertively if a fair culture is to be maintained".
In another letter to Mr Bell, Mr Allston said he nevertheless did not intend to take further action because the complaint was so old.
University of Tasmania Professor of Criminology Rob White said the ombudsman had "limited impact" in improving conditions at Ashley.
Ombudsman Leon Atkinson- MacEwen explained in his most recent annual report that complaints made about Ashley were referred to centre management, and "reports from centre management on the outcome of complaints satisfied me that they had been dealt with fairly and appropriately".
None of the 21 complaints received about Ashley in 2011-12 was proven.
Professor White said that if Ashley was not shut down as a result of a wholesale review of the youth justice system, which was happening now, an independent overseer should be appointed.
Children's Minister Michelle O'Byrne acknowledged that more work needed to be done but denied that complaints had been dealt with inappropriately.
"I think that whenever we have had an issue we have dealt with it appropriately, because we take the safety of these young people very, very seriously," she said.