Boys under the age of 18 years were sentenced by various courts to a term of confinement at the Westbrook Training Centre. The Home was overseen by a Supervisor who reported to the heads of the relevant Department.
The boys received training in farm skills while learning to work the Home's farmland. They learned how to farm, garden and keep stock. Stock was often exhibited at the annual Toowoomba Show. Produce from the farm was sold, and the boys were allowed to keep the profits from their individual gardens.
Regular maintenance work of the buildings at the Home was also undertaken by the boys.
Boys could also learn various trades while at the Centre, including metalworking, woodworking, mechanics and building maintenance and construction.
Departmental records quoted in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (1999) reveal that overcrowding and absconding were major challenges at Westbrook Training Centre in the early 1970s. Witnesses to the Inquiry in 1998-1999 spoke of harsh physical discipline at Westbrook during this period.
In 1971, the government launched the second magisterial inquiry into Westbrook (the first having been held in 1961). The 1971 inquiry was a response to articles published in the Truth newspaper in May, alleging excessive punishments, inadequate food, cases of mental illness and widespread homosexuality among the inmates, as well as details of a foiled plan for a mass breakout.
The month-long inquiry in 1971 became known as the Peel Inquiry. The report found that most of the claims in the press were either incorrect or exaggerated. The Peel report was discussed in the 1999 report of the Forde Inquiry:
'[Peel] did, however, condemn the practice of punishing troublesome inmates with an open-handed slap, and identified a few isolated incidents of staff using excessive force to control individual boys. Peel also
conceded that there was a certain amount of homosexual activity among the inmates, but that it was infrequent, especially since the Inquiry had been ordered. There was also evidence to support the allegation that 'unreasonable or excessive drill' had been imposed by some of the training
officers. In spite of Peel's benign findings, there remained a great deal of suspicion about the happenings at Westbrook (p.133).'
In 1977, Westbrook's superintendent Kevin Sullivan (a former prison warder) retired due to ill-health. The department replaced him with Alec Lobban, who had been a senior child care officer. According to the Forde report (1999), the appointment of Lobban 'suggests that the authorities intended to institute fundamental changes to the
philosophy informing the policies and procedures at Westbrook'. Lobban had written in a departmental report in 1974, that Westbrook was 'torn between three competing aims: punishment, instruction, and rehabilitation'. One significant change that followed Lobban's appointment was the introduction of in-service training for Westbrook staff. A program of community work was expanded during Lobban's time.
Lobban prepared another report about Westbrook in 1978, which stated that the institution had 4 functions: a remand centre, an assessment and treatment centre, a training
centre, and a detention centre. His report drew attention to the poor educational arrangements at Westbrook.
In 1981 the dormitory system at Westbrook was abolished, and residents had separate rooms (albeit with ventilation problems in summer, according to the Forde report, p.137).
In 1982 Lobban was seconded to work at head office, and Trevor Carlyon was formally appointed Superintendent the following year (the position was renamed 'Manager' in 1985).
Westbrook Training Centre was mentioned in the Bringing Them Home Report (1997) as an institution that housed Indigenous children removed from their families.
13 December 2018
Cite this: http://www.findandconnect.gov.au/guide/qld/QE00534
First published by the Find & Connect Web Resource Project for the Commonwealth of Australia, 2011
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