In Australia, the state and territory governments are responsible for dealing with young people involved in crime. Most young people in the juvenile justice system are either supervised in the community or are unsupervised, but some are detained. This report presents information on the number of young people in detention in 2011 and describes recent trends in the detention population.
Around 1,000 young people are in detention throughout Australia
On an average night in the June quarter of 2011 there were 1,055 young people in detention (Table 1). Over one-third (36%) were detained in New South Wales. Almost half (48%) of those in detention were unsentenced, and in most states and territories, between 43% and 68% were unsentenced. The exception was Victoria, where just 22% were unsentenced.
Rates of detention are stable
On an average night in the June quarter 2011, there were 0.35 young people aged 10–17 per 1,000 in juvenile detention throughout Australia, compared with 0.33 per 1,000 in the June quarter 2007. There was little change in the rates for unsentenced and sentenced detention.
Throughout the 4 years to 2011, detention rates were highest in the Northern Territory, where they ranged from 0.75 per 1,000 to 1.78 per 1,000, and lowest in Victoria, where they ranged from 0.10 per 1,000 to 0.16 per 1,000.
Indigenous young people are over-represented in all states and territories
On an average night in the June quarter 2011, an Indigenous young person aged 10–17 was 20 times as likely to be in unsentenced detention and 26 times as likely to be in sentenced detention as a non-Indigenous young person.
This over-representation was highest in Western Australia, where an Indigenous young person aged 10–17 was 29 times as likely to be in unsentenced detention and 50 times as likely to be in sentenced detention as a non-Indigenous young person in the June quarter 2011. In the remaining states and territories for which an over-representation ratio could be calculated, an Indigenous young person aged 10–17 was between 18 and 22 times as likely to be in unsentenced detention and between 16 and 22 times as likely to be in sentenced detention as a non-Indigenous young person. Levels of over-representation were not calculated for states and territories where there were fewer than 5 Indigenous or 5 non-Indigenous young people aged 10–17 in detention.
Indigenous young people were over-represented throughout the 4 years, although the level of Indigenous over-representation fell for both unsentenced and sentenced detention.