Abuse Law – Institutions – Westbrook Youth Detention Centre, QLD

State Government-run Institutions

The Queensland 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 Department of Child Safety are responsible for the management of these government-run institutions.  

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre

On 5 May 1900, the Queensland Government established and opened Westbrook Youth Detention Centre, situated on Althaus Road, Westbrook, which was approximately 15 kilometres southwest of Toowoomba, QLD.  

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre (previously known as Westbrook Reformatory for Boys, Farm Home for Boys, Westbrook Training Centre, and Westbrook Youth Centre) operated as a detention centre for boys under the age of 18. The boys were confined at Westbrook Youth Detention Centre by a court order.  

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre was managed by a supervisor who reported to the Queensland government (through its agencies).   

As a part of their confinement at Westbrook Youth Detention Centre, the boys were trained in farm skills while working the farmland on the grounds, as well as in various trade skills such as metalwork, woodwork, mechanics and building maintenance and construction.  

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre closed on 30 June 1994 and was transformed into the Darling Downs Correctional Centre (which then closed in August 2012).  

History of Abuse at Westbrook Youth Detention Centre

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre was notoriously known as the most feared reformatory in Australia.  

The boys were made to work all hours of the day and were treated as slave labour.  

The government launched two magisterial inquiries into the Westbrook Youth Detention Centre: the first on 14 May 1961 and the second in June 1971. The first inquiry (known as the Schwarten Inquiry) provided in its final report: 

The strap was excessively used, was over severely used, punishment for breaches of discipline was unduly harsh and excessive, there was inequality of punishment and uneven justice, and … inmates were physically assaulted by the Superintendent and certain warders and the schoolteacher in a manner that was vicious and brutal. 

The second inquiry (known as the Peel Inquiry) was commenced in response to newspaper articles alleging excessive punishments, physical abuse, inadequate food, mental illnesses, and homosexuality amongst the boys, as well as inmate’s plans for a mass breakout. The Peel Inquiry final report criticised the practice of punishing the boys with an open-handed slap, and also identified incidents of staff using excessive force to control the boys. The final report also confirmed that there was homosexual activity occurring amongst the boys. 

In 1999, the Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (also known as the Forde Inquiry) provided in its’ final report that witnesses spoke of harsh physical discipline at Westbrook Youth Detention Centre. The final report also provided at paragraph 7.3: 

The possibility of suffering some form of abuse at the institution was the greatest dread for the majority of boys in danger of being ordered to undergo a period of training there [Westbrook Youth Detention Centre]. 

Westbrook Youth Detention Centre has a dark history of beatings, neglect and rape of boys. Westbrook Youth Detention Centre was “a place of hell” for boys, and it was a notorious for whippings, starvation, and deprivation of medical care. Sadly, there is a long history of sexual abuse at Westbrook Youth Detention Centre, with survivors reporting that sexual abuse in the showers was common.  

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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