Treatment Institutions and Secure Detention

Until 1993, when the responsibility for juvenile offenders passed to the Ministry of Justice, the Department for Community Welfare fulfilled that role. 

“Where the assessment carried out in a Departmental institution indicates that institution-based behavioural treatment is necessary, the child is transferred to the recommended institution.  From this point, the child’s experiences are planned by that institution’s staff.”  “The developing view of treatment is that, before a child can live a responsible life (that is, attend school or work regularly, remain reasonably stable in employment and residence, not offend, and so on), a number of periods may be spent in the institution’s buildings – security or open sections. These periods may include daily school attendance or work away from the institution. The different periods spent at the institution are regarded as part of a continuing process of treatment, interspersed with further treatment while living in the community.  This further treatment is carried out by, or under the supervision of, institution staff. Increasingly, the child participates in planning his or her own programme and is given more responsibility for carrying it out.”  While treatment institutions had traditionally focused on the provision of services to juvenile offenders, the Department had recently established a treatment centre aimed at primary school age children who were “behaviourally disturbed.”  Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1973.

“Treatment methods are well removed from the ‘traditional’ institutional training methods, with modern programmes being based upon research reported in professional literature and carried out in Departmental institutions.”  Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1976.

With “the increasing ability of institutional staff to provide support and management for children in the community it has become more appropriate to think in terms of ‘institutional systems’ rather than ‘institutions’.  One such system, Nyandi’s, consist of a secure centre, a medium secure hostel and two community-based hostels.  Staff work with the children within these various settings and also in the community.  Children referred to Nyandi may be placed anywhere within the system according to their needs.  They may then move either toward the secure centre or toward open community placement, dependent upon their need for external controls on the one hand and their ability to cope in a socially acceptable manner on the other.  Although all institutional systems are not yet as developed as Nyandi’s they follow similar lines.”  Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1978.

“Most of the children catered for in these centres have problems arising from a particular set of family or socio-economic circumstances. Such children may exhibit behavioural problems, be subject to emotional disturbances, have committed offences, or may simply require residential care as a result of family breakdown.”  Annual Report of the Department for Community Welfare, June 30th 1979.

By 1979, when national Welstat definitions were applied, an Institution had come to refer only to a “residential child care establishment that is mainly for child offenders, children on remand for alleged offences or uncontrolled children, and that has, as one of its aims, the full-time secure detention of its child.”  Institutions by this definition were operated solely by the Department.

In 1982, an inquiry into the Treatment of Juvenile Offenders was undertaken by Professor Eric Edwards.  He found that Western Australia had the highest number of security beds in Australia, and the highest per capita rate of juvenile incarceration.  Professor Edwards recommended phasing out Hillston as a secure institution, with flow-on changes being made to the Longmore Remand and Assessment Centre as a result.  The 1980’s saw the implementation of these changes.