Criminal Law

By Satomi Hamon


Canberra is no Exception to Youth Detention Problems

The ACT’s Youth Detention Centre, Bimberi, has been drawn into the spotlight into the growing debate on youth detention issues.

Evidence of child abuse within the Don Dale youth detention sparked a national scandal and Royal Commission following the airing of a Four Corners episode last year.

Shocking footage showed detainees being thrown across their cells, kneed and knocked to the ground, tear-gassed, repeatedly stripped naked and being kept in solitary confinement.

Various reports have now emerged surrounding a violent attack that occurred at the ACT Youth Detention Centre, Bimberi, in May of last year.

It is alleged that three young detainees brutally assaulted a staff member at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre. According to a Canberra Times source, the staff member lost consciousness when they were beaten to the ground and kicked and punched for several minutes. Another staff member dislocated their shoulder trying to pull the young person off the unconscious staff member and it wasn’t until other staff came back from lunch that the three detainees were restrained.

Three staff members were admitted to Canberra Hospital as a result.

Since this incident, investigations into the Bimberi centre have revealed a number of complaints that young people have about the facility.

Some examples identified by the Canberra Times included:

  • A complaint made by a detainee about being separated from the general population. (According to management the boy declined to take responsibility for inflicting harm on another person and “the centre needs to consider the safety of his victim”.)
  • Complaints made by several of the detainees about the chef and his alleged unhygienic practices. They alleged seeing him licking his fingers before touching food and leaving hair. (Management responded the claims were unsubstantiated.)
  • Two detainees complained their bras were uncomfortable and asked for new ones.
  • One detainee said his shoes were too tight and he was issued with a new pair.
  • Detainees complained the grouting in their showers was black and needed to be scrubbed. (Management’s response was that young people were required to clean their room and amenities every Saturday with equipment provided.)
  • A detainee said leftovers from the Friday barbecue were provided for Sunday lunch and he considered this unsatisfactory. (Management denied the claim.)