How a cafe at Banksia Hill Detention Centre is changing the lives of young offenders
Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan (l) says the detention centre has been transformed. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd)
While a coffee shop opening in Perth could hardly be considered an unusual event, a new cafe in Canning Vale stands out for one very simple reason — it is run by inmates at Banksia Hill Detention Centre.
Banksia Beans Cafe opened at WA’s only juvenile detention centre on Wednesday.
The coffee is brewed by inmates who have completed a 10-week barista course and is served alongside a variety of baked goods, all of which have been made by the detainees.
The clientele, on the other hand, is made up of prison officers and other staff.
Taking part in the barista course has to be earned through good behaviour, as does working in the cafe, and there is already quite a waitlist for the opportunity.
Good behaviour can earn detainees the chance to learn how to become a barista. (ABC News: Marcus Alborn)
One of the baristas Dylan (not his real name), was sent to Banksia Hill seven months ago for what he said were “drugs and addiction” offences.
He described his time inside, including taking part in the barista course, as life changing.
“I needed it, you know, it’s a good wake up call for me,” he said of entering the detention centre.
“[It] put me in a good head space so I can get out there and do the things I need to do now.
“So I’ve got my TAFE lined up, I got a job lined up, just going to go and start being normal now.”
The 18-year-old is being released at the weekend and is due to start his new job the next day.
“One of my Mum’s friends owns a cafe in Fremantle and is giving me the chance to go work there when I get out,” he said.
Inmate Harry (not his real name) works alongside Dylan, as the pair expertly handle the many coffee orders that come in.
Harry, who is also 18 years old, is due to be released in two weeks, having spent the past 14 months inside for aggravated burglary.
“Stupid choice that I made with friends,” he said of his crime.
Harry said spending time in Banksia Hill will stop him from repeating his mistakes.
“Coming in here has really opened my mind up and changed my views and stuff and taught me to do better when I get out,” he said.
And while the gently-spoken detainee had dreams of becoming a professional boxer, he said he would definitely work in a cafe on the outside.
Giving young offenders hope
The mastermind behind the venture, Banksia Hill’s Superintendent Andy Hughes, said inmates and staff had worked for the past seven weeks to transform what was a storage room into the small yet clean and stylish cafe.
“All of the work that we could do in-house was run with our maintenance team and our work constructors with young people,” he said.
“So that included the wood panelling on the walls, all the shelving which was a built in our carpentry shop and then burnt engraved.”
Mr Hughes has been in the job for almost two years.
He was the man brought in to get the facility under control in 2017 following a period of extreme turmoil, which included numerous riots.
“It was challenging,” he said of taking on the job.
“Challenging, rewarding and needed. It took a lot of the skills that I’ve learned over the 26 years now that I’ve been in this service.
“But enjoyable as well … I’ve worked with adults the majority of my career and intrinsically the rewards of working in a juvenile centre has outshone them all.
“When the place is stable, secure and safe you’re able to do the nice stuff, which is really what I’m charged with delivering … the rehabilitation and stopping young people come back to what is a very, very expensive facility.
“And giving them hope and I’m proud of that.”
Banksia Hill Detention Centre Superintendent Andy Hughes was brought in after the 2017 riots to bring security and stability. (ABC News: Briana Shepherd)
Staff no longer too ‘frightened to come to work’
WA’s prison system has repeatedly made headlines in recent years for less positive reasons, including a major escape at Greenough Regional Prison and a number of damning reports from the Inspector of Custodial Services.
Corrective Services Minister Fran Logan credits Correctives Services Commissioner Tony Hassall and Mr Hughes for the success of the Banksia Beans Cafe.
“Andy Hughes has been a miracle worker out here in Banksia Hill,” he said.
“He’s been able to transform this facility from a riot-strewn place where staff were frightened to come to work … they told me they did not want to come to work they were so frightened … and he’s turned it into a very, very good facility that’s doing a great a great job in turning the lives around of some very, very damaged young men and women.”
Mr Hughes said five former inmates who had completed the barista course had since gone on to gain employment on the outside.
He said Banksia Beans Cafe would also be used for family and friend visitations for those inmates who had earned enough privileges through good behaviour.