Politics — 17 July 2015

Queensland Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg will face a grilling over his decision to close a mental health facility for high-risk teenagers at a commission of inquiry set up by the Palaszczuk Labor government.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk yesterday announced that former Supreme Court judge Margaret White will head the inquiry into the Newman government’s closure last year of the facility and subsequent deaths of three teenagers.

The Barrett Adolescent Centre was the state’s only long-term residential mental health facility for adolescents at risk of suicide.

The four-month inquiry was called after revelations by the ABC’s 7.30 program revealed that the centre was closed despite internal clinical advice warning of the risk of suicides if it was shuttered and of the need for an alternative facility.

The LNP has argued that the previous Bligh Labor government had plans to also close the ageing facility when it lost the 2012 election.

But at the time, the former Labor government said it was intending to move the patients into another facility until it completed renovations of the Barrett Centre. The Palaszczuk government this week set aside $5 million in its budget to hold the inquiry and establish a new facility to replace the Barrett centre.

Ms Palaszczuk said the inquiry would run from September to January and would also investigate the deaths of three former teenage patients, Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker.

“The sequence of events leading up to the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre at Wacol (in Brisbane’s southwest), and the tragedy which followed that decision by the former LNP government, is a mystery for the families whose children were in its care,” Ms Palaszczuk told parliament.

“The closure and the catastrophic and heart-rending consequences haunt those families.

“None more so than the families and friends of three teenagers who died over the eight months subsequent to Barrett closing its doors.”

This article first appeared on ‘The Australian’ on 17 July 2015.

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