MORE than $6.2 million will be spent to implement sweeping changes to the Youth Justice system in Queensland.
The state government accepted all 83 recommendations made in the Independent Review of Youth Detention, as well as the findings from an investigation into the 2016 riot at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre.
Speaking in Townsville today, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D’Ath said the two separate reviews validated the Palaszczuk Government’s whole-of-Government approach to reform.
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“I have briefed staff at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre this morning about the outcomes of these two reports,” Mrs D’Ath said.
“As the staff know, this government hasn’t waited for the reports to be finalised to take action.
“We have been making comprehensive changes since coming to power, and specific changes to Cleveland since the day after the riot.
“In fact, we have already initiated most of the recommendations related to the riot, and as a result have seen a 35 per cent decline in incidents at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre since November.
“We recognise that youth detention centres are highly complex and sometimes volatile environments and balancing welfare, justice and security needs is a daily challenge.
“For every person demanding better treatment of young offenders is a person demanding tougher penalties.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to making young people accountable for their actions, while providing appropriate support for staff who work with them every day.
“Safety is the number one priority. We are committed to providing youth detention centres which have the highest safety standards for staff and young people alike.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that staff members were injured in the November incident, and those believed responsible have been charged.
“But while we want and demand a robust system, we must also invest in the young offenders’ futures, to stop them reoffending, and find an alternative path for them on release, so they can become productive members of society.
“This builds a safer community for everyone. We are taking a whole-of-government approach and are starting to see the results.
“As part of the Townsville Community Youth Response, we established a Specialist High-Risk Youth Court for Townsville, where high-risk offenders go back before the same specialist Magistrate, who sentences the young person to an appropriate penalty.
“This can include detention, probation, or intensive case management, where case managers work intensively with young people and their families, and conferencing, where the offender can attend conferencing with their victim so they can understand the impact of their actions.
“There is no overnight fix for youth crime, but we are committed to investing in Townsville’s long-term bright future.”
Mrs D’Ath also said the Palaszczuk Government was addressing youth justice issues across Queensland.
“Substantial reform is underway in Youth Justice to reduce youth crime and recidivism, including addressing the underlying factors that contribute to offending to prevent young people from turning to crime to start with and to stop them reoffending once in the youth justice system.”
The Cleveland Riot Report conducted by the Office of the Chief Inspector, Queensland Correct Services, made seven primary recommendations.
Many are already complete, or underway, including:
- Upgrades to infrastructure and improved design – to roof tops, building access, and security grills over glass, reinforced steel on doors and the creation of safe areas for staff to improve safety and security;
- More support and training for staff in use of shields and other protective equipment, and operational changes to empower staff to make decisions quickly and uphold the safety and security of the centre.
- Working closely with the Queensland Police Service to develop an MOU to better respond to incidents and their future management.
The Independent Review of Youth Detention, compiled by Commissioners Kathryn McMillan QC and Professor Megan Davis investigated several concerning incidents, dating back to 2013.
Since that time there has been significant reform within Queensland’s Youth Detention Centres.
The Review found that these incidents, which had received widespread media coverage, were not sufficient to support a finding of systemic mistreatment of young people.
The Government has accepted in principle all 83 recommendations to improve practices and services; many have already been addressed by the Palaszczuk Government’s broader Youth Justice strategy.
- building new programs around cultural sensitivity;
- establishing an independent oversight body for Youth Detention issues;
reviewing the use of CCTV footage; and,
- providing clear descriptions and training on the use of restraints, and on-ground stabilisation and de-escalation techniques.