Queensland watch houses under review17 February 2023
The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) has initiated a systemic review of the drivers that cause children to enter and remain in Queensland watch houses.
QFCC Principal Commissioner Luke Twyford said the review was launched in response to concerns around the growing number of children being held in Queensland watch houses for extended periods of time.
“Queensland detains children at a higher rate than any other state in Australia, which has challenged the capacity of detention centres and appears to have resulted in an over-reliance on watch houses,” Mr Twyford said.
“A watch house is not an appropriate place to house a child, given they can be exposed to violent and anti-social adult behaviour while detained, which can be harmful and re-traumatising.
“Around 60 children are currently held in watch houses in Queensland, some as young as 10.
“In recent months, I have observed the number of children held in Queensland watch houses for more than a day more than double, and I am concerned about reports of children being held in excess of 25 days.
“We have also received complaints from the Office of the Public Guardian on behalf of a number of children, advising of the physical, psychological and emotional effects children have experienced resulting from extended stays in watch houses.”
Mr Twyford said the review would identify and evidence the systemic drivers behind the growing trend in an effort to reduce the time children are detained in watch houses.
“This review will look at how decisions are made around remanding children in watch houses, including judicial timeframes, apprehension and arrest rates, types of charges, bail and diversion rates, family contexts, and logistical impacts.
“We will compare the legislative and practice differences between Queensland and other Australian jurisdictions to understand why we are experiencing this challenge.
“Importantly, we will also look at the circumstances of children who we are advised have been held in watch houses for extended periods to understand the circumstances and contributing factors.
“I look forward to working with government agencies on this review, particularly the Office of the Public Guardian, which is a strong advocate for improving outcomes for Queensland children.”
The review is a priority for the QFCC and will be completed and released this year.
For media information contact:
Kirstine O’Donnell | Queensland Family and Child Commission
Phone: 0404 971 164