News & Current Affairs

By Aulich


Canberra’s Youth Detention Centre – Disturbing and Destructive

Serious allegations of abuse and violence have triggered intense scrutiny of the Bimberi youth detention centre with many very concerned for the young inmates.

The Bimberi detention centre is a 40-bed facility located in north Canberra which houses young offenders between the ages of 10 and 21. It was opened in 2008 after the closure of the controversial Quamby Centre.

However, an investigation by the Canberra Times has uncovered seriously concerning reports of conduct within Bimberi. A number of staff, former detainees and government officials have come forward to divulge details of what has occurred within the centre between 2011 and 2017.

The Canberra Times reports children held in Bimberi have allegedly been abused and humiliated with violence occurring regularly between detainees and staff members. There are claims guards have been encouraging children to settle disputes with organised fights and supplying them with alcohol and drugs. A former detainee claimed guards would organise a room for the inmates to go and sort out their issues and staff congratulated detainees who had assaulted unpopular detainees.

The issues at Bimberi are said to start with the staff. Employees are said to be overworked, underpaid and scared with one member of staff stating ‘nobody is proud to work at Bimberi.’ Bimberi has been termed a ‘disturbing and destructive workplace’.

However, the ACT government’s executive director of youth services, Dr Mark Collis insists Bimberi is ‘one of the most open and transparent’ detention centres in Australia. He claimed the Bimberi staff are well-trained and have a series of workplace policies and procedures in place to ensure their safety and that of the detainees.

Dr Collis’ lack of concern is not reflected by many. Amnesty International has condemned the alleged mistreatment of the youth detained in Bimberi and called the Prime Minister to intervene. The organisation states these allegations are part of a national trend and demonstrates state youth justice systems should be overhauled in favour of a national approach.

Opposition leader Alistair Coe echoes these concerns stating it is not a shortage of funds that contributes to this issue but rather a ‘systemic and cultural problem.’ He has called for a minister and chief minister to demonstrate leadership and make sure Bimberi is a safe place suitable for the rehabilitation of children.