This report looks at 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 2010 to the June quarter 2014.
Fewer than 1,000 young people in detention on an average night
In the June quarter 2014, 929 young people were in youth detention on an average night. The vast majority (91%) were male. About half (52%) 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 (79%) 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 in that age group. The other detainees were aged 18 or older.
Numbers and rates have decreased
Over the 4-year period, there was an overall decrease in the national youth detention population, from 1,053 to 929 young people in detention on an average night. When only those aged 10-17 are considered, there was a small but steady downward trend in the overall number and rate-from 833 to 738 young people, and from 3.7 to 3.3 young people per 10,000 on an average night.
Between the June quarter 2013 and the June quarter 2014, numbers and rates of young people in detention were relatively stable-ranging between 929 and 948 young people, and between 3.1 and 3.3 people aged 10-17 per 10,000 on an average night each quarter.
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 (ranging between 1.8 and 2.2 per 10,000 each quarter), the rate of sentenced detention decreased over the period (from 1.6 to 1.3 per 10,000). The sentenced detention rate was consistently lower during 2013 and early 2014 (1.2 to 1.3 per 10,000) than earlier in the 4-year period (1.3 to 1.7 per 10,000).
Half of those in detention are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
About half (52%) of young people in detention on an average night in the June quarter 2014 were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Over the 4-year period, the over-representation of Indigenous young people in detention increased from 22 to 25 times the rate of non-Indigenous young people, mainly due to a decrease in the rate of non-Indigenous young people in detention.
Trends among the states and territories vary
Trends in the youth detention population varied among the states and territories. Over the 4-year period, the rate of young people aged 10-17 in detention on an average night increased in Queensland, and decreased in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.