The John Oxley Youth Detention Centre in Wacol opened in 1987. Run by the state government, it catered for children placed in the care and control of the State, and those committed to the custody of the State. Serious offenders were held in the same facility, and shared accommodation with children who were unruly, difficult or disturbed. The facility was closed in 2001 and replaced with the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre, also situated at Wacol.
The Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (1998-1999) heard evidence about John Oxley Youth Detention Centre from 37 witnesses. It also held a public hearing specifically in relation to allegations of handcuffing at the Centre, an issue which had a separate section in the Forde Report of 1999.
The Commission's report states that John Oxley was originally established in 1987 as a centre for male and female adolescents, aged 10 to 15 and 10 to 17 years respectively, who had been committed to the care and control of the Director-General or who were on remand for offences.
The closure of Westbrook in 1994 resulted in older boys being transferred from there to John Oxley, and some overcrowding occurred as a consequence. Demountable buildings were constructed to accommodate the extra numbers. These were named Stradbroke, Bribie and Fraser. Other buildings at John Oxley were called Hamilton A, B and C (opened in 1999) and the Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth wings (part of the original structure in 1987). The new demountable buildings were said to be extremely uncomfortable in summer months.
The Forde Inquiry report contains details of several 'major disturbances' that took place at John Oxley, as well as escapes and attempted escapes from the Centre, and incidents of self-harming behaviour by residents. The report also discusses assaults by staff against residents, and between residents.
The Forde report contained the following summary of conditions at John Oxley Youth Detention Centre:
John Oxley was originally established for a purpose very different from the one it has been required to fulfil in recent years. Its design as an open centre, reflecting family residential models, was unsuitable for the security demands placed on the Centre following the changes in admission policy at Wilson and the closure of Westbrook. A range of problems have resulted, including escapes, major disturbances, and isolated incidences of violence among inmates and between inmates and staff. Furthermore, the
Inquiry has found that for many years the numbers, quality and training of many custodial staff, and some managers, did not match the requirements of their work and had consequences in terms of their relationships with and management of residents (p.170).
1987 - 2001 John Oxley Youth Detention Centre
2001 - Brisbane Youth Detention Centre
Sources used to compile this entry: Department of Families, Missing pieces: information to assist former residents of children's institutions to access records, State of Queensland, 2001. pp.15-17..
Prepared by: Lee Butterworth
Created: 31 May 2011, Last modified: 27 March 2018