This bulletin looks at the numbers and rates of young people aged 10 and over 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 2014 to the June quarter 2018.
980 young people were in detention on an average night
On an average night in the June quarter 2018, 980 young people were in youth detention. The vast majority (90%) were male, and most (84%) were aged 10–17. This equates to a rate of 3.5 young people aged 10–17 per 10,000. The other detainees were aged 18 or older.
On an average night in the June quarter 2018, 3 in 5 (60%) young people in detention were unsentenced—that is, they were awaiting the outcome of their court matter or sentencing. The remainder were serving a sentence.
Detention rates have fluctuated
Over the 4-year period from the June quarter 2014 to the June quarter 2018, the number of young people in detention on an average night rose. The number was lowest in the September quarter 2016 (792 young people), and highest in the March quarter 2018 (985).
The rate of those aged 10–17 in detention fluctuated over the 4-year period, showing no clear trend, between 2.8 and 3.5 per 10,000 each quarter.
Sentenced detention fell, while unsentenced detention rose
On an average night in the June quarter 2018, 2.4 per 10,000 young people aged 10–17 were in unsentenced detention, and 1.1 per 10,000 were in sentenced detention.
Over the 4-year period, the rate of young people in sentenced detention fell from a high of 1.4 per 10,000 young people aged 10–17 in the June quarter 2014, to a low of 1.0 per 10,000 in the December quarter 2016, before rising slightly to 1.1 per 10,000 in the June quarter 2018.
The rate of young people aged 10–17 in unsentenced detention rose overall, ranging from 1.7 per 10,000 (September and December quarters 2014, and September quarter 2016) to 2.4 per 10,000 (March quarter 2017, and June quarters 2018).
More than half of those in detention were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
On an average night in the June quarter 2018, nearly 3 in 5 (59%) young people aged 10–17 in detention were Indigenous, despite Indigenous young people making up only 5% of the general population aged 10–17.
Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were 26 times as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be in detention on an average night. Over the 4-year period, this fluctuated between 21 and 28 times the non-Indigenous rate.
Trends vary across the states and territories
Rates of young people in detention on an average night rose over the 4-year period in Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania. In the other states and territories, rates remained relatively stable, or showed no consistent trend.
In Queensland, legislation changed to increase the youth justice age limit to 17, starting 12 February 2018. Before then, the age limit in Queensland was 16. This, in part, led to a rise in the number of young people held in youth justice detention in Queensland and nationally.
- Youth detention in Australia
- Youth detention data
2. Trends in detention
3. Trends in sentenced and unsentenced detention
4. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
5. State and territory trends
- Sentenced and unsentenced detention
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people
- Youth detention data sources
- Youth detention reports
- Methods and technical notes
End matter: Acknowledgments; Abbreviations; Symbols; References; Related publications