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The full extent of Australia’s historical juvenile detention centre abuse is yet to surface


Shine Lawyers | Leanne McDonald | Shine Lawyers

Written by:
Leanne McDonald
National Practice Leader | Abuse, Dust Diseases and Federal Compensation

This blog deals with sexual abuse and might be triggering for some readers.

It’s a dark and sickening part of Australia’s history that's yet to be fully exposed. The names of paedophiles who ruined the lives of thousands of boys while in detention are slowly coming out, but most continue to live good lives with their reputations intact.

What happened in these state run detention centres, to defenceless boys before they even reached puberty, is so disturbing that it’s hard to comprehend. For these boys the nightmares continue decades on, and so too the pain.

When these so-called ‘reform centres’ were established in different states for troubled boys, men in positions of authority at the centres would abuse their power, knowing their victims had no access to the outside world to report the crimes.

Investigations into Institutional Child Abuse in Youth Detention Centres

Since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse the names of Australia’s worst juvenile detention centres and key perpetrators continue to come out, just not fast enough.

As a result of the horrific abuse, survivors, some now in their 50s and 60s, have battled demons their entire lives.

Ashley Detention Centre

In September 2021 the Tasmanian Premier announced the Ashley Detention Centre would close within the next three years. The Centre is right in the middle of hundreds of serious allegations of child abuse that helped trigger Tasmania's ongoing comission of inquiry.

Many victims we represent tell stories of enduring horrifying abuse whilst at the centre, including rape, physcal intimidation and sexual violence, with dates spanning from recent years all the way back to the 19070s.

Cleveland Youth Detention Centre

Another detention centre to hit the spotlight is the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. After a Four Corners report on a separate facility in the Northern Territory aired a few years ago, further claims of brutality emerged from this North Queensland facility.

The government-run facility was established in June 1980 and housed male children between the ages of 10 to 17 years old. The Shine Lawyers Abuse Law team are currently acting for numerous detainees who endured physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at the centre. The victims say the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre abuse has left them traumatised beyond belief.

Mt Penang Juvenile Detention Centre

The latest centre to hit the spotlight is Mt Penang Juvenile Detention Centre on the NSW Central Coast. Some of the boys that we represent were sent to Mt Penang for missing school or because their mothers couldn’t cope with their own personal battles. When they got there, our clients were brutally assaulted by their superiors.

Now grown men, more and more victims of sex abuse from these hellish state-run juvenile detention centres are starting to seek justice. Shine Lawyers Abuse Law team fights hard for them knowing that compensation can assist victims still desperate for acknowledgment.

Daruk Training Centre

The infamous Daruk Training Centre in Sydney's North West is another that’s been exposed. Detectives investigating the sex abuse that occurred there 30 years ago have started laying charges and continue to call for victims across Australia to come forward. The number of boys abused is expected to be staggering given Daruk operated for 20 years. Victims we represent recall horrific sexual and physical abuse and illegal circumcision.

Westbrook Farm Home for the Boys

Shine Lawyers has represented well over 100 victims from Westbrook Farm Home for Boys, near Toowoomba where sexual abuse, beatings and denial of food and medical treatment were the norm. The boys were made to work from dawn to dusk and treated as slave labour.

Wilson Detention Centre

Another, was the notorious Wilson Detention Centre. The Forde Inquiry into the Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions recommended that the Sir Leslie Wilson Detention Centre, previously known as the Wilson Hospital, be closed as a matter of urgency. The ghastly facility in Windsor stopped operating in 1991 but for youth who were forced to call this place home, the punishment is lifelong.

Many victims who we represent speak of daily emotional, physical and sexual abuse. No schooling was offered, sedatives were readily administered to those who didn’t require medication and organised violence was sanctioned. Solitary confinement was another regular occurrence and a paedophile known as ‘Lurch’ is known to have sexually abused dozens at Wilson Detention Centre as well as bringing other paedophiles into the centre.

Don Dale Youth Detention Centre

Vision of abuse at Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in the Northern Territory more recently shocked the nation. Within 36 hours of horrific images being televised the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory was called. Sadly, despite the damning findings many argue that not enough has been done.

Other youth detention centres being investigated

These breeding grounds for perpetrators were not limited to QLD and NSW. Victims are coming forward seeking justice for the sexual abuse they were forced to endure at places like Windana, Glandore, Brookway Park and McNally Youth Detention Centres in South Australia; Turana, Winlaton and Baltara in Victoria; Minda, Mt Penang, Daruk, Reiby and Kariong in NSW; and John Oxley, Wilson, Westbrook, Cleveland and Brisbane Youth Detention Centres in Queensland. The abuse has gone on for decades.

This dark chapter of Australia’s history needs to be ripped open and perpetrators charged to ensure that such mass scale cover up of juvenile sex abuse in correction centres can never be repeated.

Access justice with Shine Lawyers

If you are a survivor of institutional sexual or physical assault, Shine Lawyers can help you to access the justice you deserve. We will run your case in a respectful and empathetic manner as we act on your behalf to secure reparations. It is our hope that as more perpetrators are punished for these crimes, we will see fewer victims in the future. Contact us today to request a confidential discussion with our experienced abuse lawyers.

If this blog brings up any issues for you, or you feel like you need to speak to someone, please contact 1800 RESPECT who can provide confidential sexual assault counselling either on the phone or via webchat. This service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Written by Leanne McDonald. Last modified: June 12, 2020.

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