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Rates of young people in sentenced detention have fallen slightly, while rates of those in unsentenced detention have remained relatively stable over recent years, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Youth detention population in Australia: 2013, examines numbers and rates of young people who were in youth detention due to their involvement or alleged involvement in crime, and looks at trends over the 4-year period from the June quarter 2009 to the June quarter 2013.

It shows that there were 970 young people in youth detention on an average night in the June quarter 2013-equating to about 1 in every 3,000 young people aged 10-17 across Australia.

About half (51%) were unsentenced-that is, they were awaiting the outcome of their court matter or sentencing-and the remainder were serving a sentence.

'Overall, there was a small but steady downward trend in the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention between June 2009 and June 2013, from 3.6 to 3.3 young people per 10,000 on an average night,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

The rate was highest during 2010-at 3.9 young people per 10,000 in the March quarter-and falling from late 2011 onwards.

'This decrease was mainly due to a drop in the sentenced detention rate-from 1.6 to 1.2 per 10,000 young people,' Mr Beard said.

The rate of young people aged 10-17 in unsentenced detention remained relatively stable over the 4 years at 2.0 per 10,000 young people.

The vast majority (90%) of young people in detention were male and about three-quarters (76%) were aged 10-17. The other detainees were aged 18 or over.

'Of concern is that 1 in 2 young people in detention are Indigenous, and we've seen a rise in the ratio of Indigenous young people in detention compared to non-Indigenous young people-from 26:1 to 31:1 over the 4 years,' Mr Beard said.

'This was mainly due to a fall in the rate of non-Indigenous young people in detention.'

Over the 4-year period, the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention on an average night fell in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, rose in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and fluctuated or remained stable in the remaining state and territories.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 10 December 2013

Further information: Mr Tim Beard, AIHW, Tel. (02) 6244 1270, mob. 0418 271 395

Full publication: Youth detention population in Australia: 2013