Detention centre builds to help handle juvenile crime

Fraser Barton |

Queensland is ramping up its capacity to house juvenile offenders in detention centres.
Queensland is ramping up its capacity to house juvenile offenders in detention centres.

Work has begun on another Queensland detention centre after it was revealed the state had more juveniles behind bars than five states and territories combined.

The Queensland government says is almost doubling the capacity of its youth detention system to keep the community safe amid a community outcry over juvenile crime.

Work has begun on an 80-bed, $627 million facility in Woodford, north of Brisbane, set to be complete in 2026.

Another detention centre in Cairns is expected to be operational a year later.

The facilities will add 120 beds to the state’s youth detention capacity as the government looks to tackle juvenile crime.

Department of Youth Justice director-general Bob Gee said Queensland had more young people in detention on an average day than NSW, Victoria, the ACT, South Australia and Tasmania combined.

“I say that to make a point – detention is a necessary component of sending a message to young people that their behaviour needs to change,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Queensland has three youth detention centres – two in Wacol west of Brisbane with another in Townsville.

Mr Gee said about 85 per cent of juveniles in the state’s detention centres were on remand waiting for a sentence or hearing.

There were 70 young people in watchhouses across the state and 289 in detention centres, Youth Justice Minister Di Farmer said.

The government last year passed controversial laws allowing contingencies for police watchhouses and adult prisons to be used as youth detention centres, overriding the state’s Human Rights Act.

The contingencies are only to be used in extraordinary circumstances until the Woodford and Cairns detention centres are complete.

Premier Steven Miles said the new facilities would be “therapeutic” detention centres.

They will include consultation and treatment rooms as well as spaces for education, skills development, training and cultural connection.

“They’ll be co-designed with a particular focus on consulting with First Nations elders who we hope will help us to deliver programs in the facilities,” Mr Miles said.

A 50-bed, $250 million youth remand centre will also be built in Brisbane’s south on land owned by the Queensland Police Service near an existing Wacol detention facility.