Will Fowell, Talieha Nebauer and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker died after the Barrett Centre closed in 2014.
Will Fowell, Talieha Nebauer and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker died after the Barrett Centre closed in 2014.

Palaszczuk vows to find answers for parents of teens

A RETIRED judge will investigate why the LNP closed the Barrett Adolescent Centre and look into the subsequent deaths of these three teenagers who were classified as high-risk.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told Queensland Parliament on Thursday that Labor would establish a Commission of Inquiry which would run from September 14 this year until January 14 next year.

This Commission of Inquiry will investigate why the previous government made the decision to close Ipswich facility.

Retired Justice Margaret Wilson - who presided over the Queensland Mental Health Court from 2002 to 2005 - will examine how decisions were made, who made the decisions and what evidence was available and considered before the centre was closed.

The Barrett centre was Queensland's only long-term residential mental health facility for adolescents at risk of suicide.

Ms Palaszczuk said the Newman government promised other services would be there when it closed the centre in January 2014.

Within eight months, three former patients were dead.

Labor has not promised to reopen the centre but committed to build a sub-acute centre with an education facility.

Ms Palaszczuk said her government wanted the truth because the families - along with the centre's staff, the community and other families impacted by the centre's closure - deserve the truth.

"No parent should have to fear outliving their child," she said.

"No parent should have to wake in the still of the night cloaked with dread that their child's life is in danger and they are helpless to protect them, helpless to offer hope.

"Yet that is the peculiar hell a group of families found themselves faced with a little over a year ago.

"That was when the only facility they were able to turn to in a bid to protect their children - who were at risk of self harm - was closed with little in the way of a legitimate reason.

"The sequence of events leading up to the closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre at Wacol and the tragedy which followed that decision by the former LNP government is a mystery for the families whose children were in its care.

"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."

Talieha Nebauer was aged 17 when she died. Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson-Whiticker were 18.

Ms Palaszczuk said those young lives were taken too soon.

She said their deaths had devastated families, friends and their communities.

"That is why my government promised these families we would find them answers - and that is a promise we will keep," she said.

"It will give the families of these children a voice.

"It will allow these families to ask questions and seek answers about their children's care and about their children's tragic deaths.

"Its aim will be to make recommendations for the future care of high risk teenagers and the provision of mental health services for Queensland adolescents."

Ms Palaszczuk quoted Talieha's mother Nichole Pryde who this week described to the ABC her desperation to keep her daughter safe and alive.

"You go to bed of a night time and you don't want to fall asleep because you don't know how your child is going to be, you're just always on edge waiting for the next thing to happen."

"Ms Pryde said she turned to the Barrett Centre as a last resort.

"I fought hard to get her to go because I thought that was the last chance of keeping her alive.

"I just want justice for Talieha. I just want answers."

"Today, I vow to Nicole and Talieha, who I had also met on a couple of occasions and listened to her stories quite personally - and all the other families and staff and the community - that we will find those answers for those families." - APN NEWSDESK



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