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The Victorian 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.
In 1956, the Victorian Government established and opened Winlaton Youth Training Centre, situated in Springvale Road, Nunawading VIC. Prior to the opening of Winlaton Youth Training Centre, the building was called Winlaton Home run by the Mission of St James and St John.
Winlaton Youth Training Centre (also known as Winlaton Juvenile School and Winlaton Reception Centre) operated as the main specialised reception centre in Victoria for female adolescent children who juvenile offenders committed to by the courts. Winlaton Youth Training Centre also housed girls and young women who were not juveniles (had not committed crimes).
Winlaton Youth Training Centre was managed by a Superintendent who supervised and reported to the Victorian government (through its agencies).
In 1991, Winlaton Youth Training Centre became Nunawading Youth Residential Centre and was redeveloped to be a mix-gendered facility. In around 1992 or 1993, Nunawading Youth Residential Centre’s functions were consolidated at the former Baltara Reception Centre site and the new facility that was named Melbourne Youth Residential Centre.
The Social Welfare Department annual report for 1968-69 provided the following in relation to the ‘Gooyah’ section within Winlaton Youth Training Centre:
‘traditionally used as a disciplinary section is now the unit for the more psychiatrically disturbed girl or the one for whom limit setting in open situations is impossible’
In the 1970s, it was reported that Winlaton Youth Training Centre living conditions deteriorated markedly.
In 1981, it was reported in The Age newspaper that Winlaton Youth Training Centre was ‘run down’ and ‘like the teenagers who live there, the institution looks tired’. It was reported that Winlaton Youth Training Centre was overcrowded and understaffed.
In 2015, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse heard in relation to Case Study 30. Former residents of Winlaton Youth Training Centre provided evidence about absconding the Centre as they were being sexually abused and wanted to avoid further sexual abuse. The Royal Commission found that ‘there was an attitude to children of youth training and reception centres at the time which meant that police did not inquire into why residents abscond’.
In addition to suffering ongoing sexual abuse, the girl detainees at Winlaton Youth Training Centre were also abused in other disturbing ways, such as the girls being often strip-searched when and ‘examined’ to see if they were virgins, despite telling the doctors they were. Their sexual history was also checked on a regular basis.
A rehabilitation program, called triad therapy, discouraged girls from reporting the abuse they experienced at Winlaton Youth Training Centre. Triad therapy involved a group of girls getting together under supervision and being forced to acknowledge or accept responsibility for their problems. Discussion points typically included:
Survivors report that they were not comfortable raising their experiences with sexual abuse during these triad therapy sessions. The Royal Commission deemed triad therapy as an inappropriate forum for the girls to raise issues of abuse because it was not directed at sexual abuse, the people who performed triad therapy were not trained, and the victim was forced to take blame or responsibility for their “problem”.
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.