This report examines the numbers and rates of young people who were in youth detention in Australia due to their involvement or alleged involvement in crime. It focuses on trends over the 4-year period from the June quarter 2009 to the June quarter 2013.
Fewer than 1,000 young people in detention on an average night
There were 970 young people in youth detention on an average night in the June quarter 2013. The vast majority (90%) were male. 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.
About three-quarters (76%) of those in detention were aged 10-17. This equates to 3.3 young people aged 10-17 per 10,000 in the Australian population, or about 1 in every 3,000 young people. The other detainees were aged 18 or over.
Numbers are stable, but rates have decreased
Over the 4-year period, the national youth detention population remained relatively stable, with 948 to 1,081 young people in detention on an average night each quarter.
However, when only those aged 10-17 are considered, there was a small but steady downward trend in the number in detention and in the rate of detention, from 3.6 to 3.3 young people per 10,000 on an average night. The rate was highest during 2010 (3.9 per 10,000 in the March quarter 2010) and lower from late 2011 onwards.
Decrease in sentenced detention rate
The decrease in the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention was mainly due to a decrease in the sentenced detention rate. While the rate of young people aged 10-17 in unsentenced detention remained relatively stable (2.0 per 10,000 in the June quarter 2013), there was a decrease in the rate of sentenced detention over the period (from 1.6 to 1.2 per 10,000). Most of the decrease occurred from late 2011 onwards.
One in two in detention are Indigenous
About half (51%) of those in detention on an average night in the June quarter 2013 were Indigenous. Over the 4-year period, there was an increase in the rate ratio (the rate of detention for Indigenous young people aged 10-17 compared to the rate of non-Indigenous young people) from 26 to 31, mainly due to a decrease in the rate of non-Indigenous young people in detention.
Different trends among the states and territories
There were different trends in the youth detention population among the states and territories. Over the 4-year period, the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention on an average night decreased in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, increased in Queensland and the Northern Territory, and fluctuated or remained stable in the remaining states and territories.