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There was a small but steady decline in the number of young people in sentenced detention in Australia between 2010 and 2014, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). The number of young people in unsentenced detention, however, remained relatively stable over the same period. 

The report, Youth detention population in Australia 2014, looks at the numbers and rates of young people who were in youth detention due to their involvement or alleged involvement in criminal activity, and looks at trends over the 4-year period from June 2010 to June 2014.   

The report shows that over this period there was a drop from 1,053 to 929 young people in detention on an average night across Australia, indicating a small yet steady downward trend. For those aged 10-17, the rate fell from 3.7 to 3.3 young people per 10,000 on an average night. This drop was mainly driven by a fall in the sentenced detention rate, from 1.6 to 1.3 young people per 10,000, between 2010 and 2014.

In contrast, the rate of young people aged 10-17 in unsentenced detention remained relatively stable over the 4 years, ranging between 1.8 and 2.2 per 10,000 young people. A little over half (52%) of those in detention were unsentenced-that is, awaiting sentencing or the outcome of their court matter-and the remainder were serving a sentence.

Over the four year period, the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention on an average night dropped in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory, while it rose in Queensland.

'Overall, 1 in every 3,000 young people aged 10-17 across Australia were in detention on an average night. The vast majority (91%) of young people in detention were male,' said AIHW spokesperson Tim Beard.

Just over half (52%) of young people in detention on an average night in the June quarter 2014 were Indigenous.

'Over the 4-year period, the over-representation of Indigenous young people in detention rose from 22 times to 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people,' Mr Beard said.

'The increase in Indigenous young people in detention is largely due to the falling rate of non-Indigenous young people in detention.'

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, 28 November 2014

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

Full publication: Youth detention population in Australia 2014