Abuse Law – Institutions – Magill Youth Training Centre, SA

State Government-run Institutions

The South Australia Government established reformatory schools and detention centres to provide institutional care and confinement for young people deemed to be in the need of ‘correction’. The Child Welfare Department were responsible for the management of these government-run institutions.  

Magill Youth Training Centre

In 1869, the South Australian Government established and opened Magill Youth Training Centre as the Boys Reformatory, Magill, situated at 23 Glen Stuart Road, Woodforde, South Australia. In 1967, it changed its name to the McNally Training Centre and operated under that name until 1979 where it changed its name again to the South Australian Youth Training Centre (SAYTC) and in 1993 to the Magill Youth Training Centre. The name was changed when the new Cavan Training Centre was established as accommodation for the older offenders. Magill Youth Training Centre was then used for the young offenders only. When the South Australian Youth Remand and Assessment Centre closed that same year (1993), a separate facility for young female offenders was created at the Magill Youth Training Centre. The young women moved to Magill Youth Training Centre in October 1993. 


In the late 2000s, Magill Youth Training Centre came under severe criticism for its barbaric and degrading conditions. Consequently, it was replaced in 2012 by a new 60-bed youth training centre known as the Adelaide Youth Training Centre in Cavan, north Adelaide. This building was then demolished in 2014.  

History of Abuse at Magill Youth Training Centre

Magill Youth Training Centre was well known not only for its dehumanising conditions but also for the sexual abuse of numerous children in its custody. In 2004, the South Australian government held the Children in State Care Commission of Inquiry which published its Final Report in 2008 after hearing numerous allegations of sexual abuse from numerous people who were placed in various State-run institutions, including Magill Youth Training Centre. The Commission heard from persons who were at Magill Youth Training Centre and who made allegations of being sexually abused not just by one perpetrator but also sometimes by multiple perpetrators. Subsequently, once these persons had left Magill Youth Training Centre, the Commission also heard that many of these people were never the same afterwards with many having difficulties later on in their adult life with their mental health, employment and general enjoyment of life.   


In 2009 criticisms of Magill Youth Training Centre became more public. The Guardian for Children and Young People, the Minister for Social Inclusion, and the Australian Youth representative to the United Nations all spoke out in disapproval of the living conditions at the Magill Youth Training Centre. The Guardian for Children and Young People referred to Magill Youth Training Centre as ‘barbaric’. In a radio interview in July 2009, she described living conditions inside the facility as follows: 

The cells are two by three metre with a single bunk and no room for a desk or chair. The windows are at 1.5 metres high so for small children they can’t even reach the bottom of the window. It’s a very, very sad place… if you think about the profile of the children and young people that are there, many of them have already been traumatised by some child abuse or neglect and what we’re doing is compounding that. 


The Minister for Social Inclusion also criticised the Magill Youth Training Centre as ‘inhumane’, saying:  

It is beyond acceptance in a modern society that we have children needing rehabilitation in that sort of environment. So it is clear as anything to me that that centre has got to go… if we just have children left in the centre and this continues we will see more and more depression and mental illness amongst kids, young people who go through that centre and we will see those kids returning to lives of crime. 


The Australian Youth representative to the United Nations stated that Magill Youth Training Centre failed to meet international standards and suggested that the conditions in which the young people in Magill Youth Training Centre lived were a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 


As a result of complaints about Magill Youth Training Centre, in September 2009, The Greens political party moved a motion in Parliament calling for the Legislative Council to note that: 

(a) The young people detained in the Magill Youth Training Centre in South Australia are being held in degrading conditions; and 

(b) In the assessment of the 2009 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations, Mr Chris Varney, this represents a breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

2. Recognises that in 2006 the South Australian Labor government acknowledged that the centre was in need of replacement as it breached modern building codes and occupational health and safety requirements; and 

3. Calls on the South Australian government to keep its election promise and urgently build a new facility to replace the Magill Youth Training Centre. 


As a result of this Greens parliamentary motion and continuing and growing concern about conditions at Magill Youth Training Centre, the government agreed to close Magill Youth Training Centre and move residents to a new purpose-built facility on the Cavan site, known as the Adelaide Youth Training Centre.  


We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 


Further Abuse Law information written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.

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