Government launches investigation into riot at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre

Lachlan Roberts 27 August 2019 34

Police are investigating a “major incident” at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre on Monday night. Photo: Region Media.

The ACT Government has launched an investigation into a riot at the Bimberi Youth Justice Centre on Monday night (26 August) which saw seven staff taken to hospital with injuries and police called to secure the centre.

Around 6:51 pm, Bimberi Youth Justice Centre staff called ACT Policing to help them address an incident that involved several young people aged between 14 and 20-years-old and staff. Police arrived a short time later and the centre was secured by 7:40 pm.

Four staff were taken to the Canberra Hospital and three to Calvary Hospital, all in stable conditions and were all released by midnight.

ACT Youth and Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith would not elaborate on the injuries that staff sustained or how many detainees were involved in the incident. She said the incident was classified as a “major incident” which means that all staff were involved in the incident.

Ms Stephen-Smith said she has commissioned an investigation to be conducted by former Chief Executive of Juvenile Justice in NSW, Peter Muir, who arrived in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon (27 August).

“This is a significant incident and we are taking it very seriously,” Ms Stephen-Smith said. “It is very important that we do consider this as matter from a youth justice perspective in addition to the perspectives of ACT Policing and WorkSafe ACT so that we can learn any lessons that can be learnt from this incidence.”

Mr Muir will also investigate how a 17-year-old Bimberi Youth Detention Centre detainee escaped from Canberra Hospital and went on the run for three hours before he was found in Acton less than 24 hours earlier.

Ms Stephen-Smith was adamant the two incidents are separate but said it was important to investigate both matters.

Ms Stephen-Smith has commissioned an independent investigation into the incident. File Photo.

“We were already intending to look into that incident of the young person absconding and Mr Muir will now undertake an investigation into both of these matters,” she said. “This is not to indicate that these matters are linked.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said the centre will be in rolling lockdowns for the day and will only allow young people to leave their units in smaller numbers to help calm the centre.

“These kinds of incidents have an impact on all staff, who work with some of the most difficult and complex young people in our community,” she said. “An incident like this has a direct and indirect impact on all staff and it is important that we support those staff in any way they need.

“This is a very difficult time and our first priority is the safety and security of staff and young people at Bimberi and making sure they get the support they need.”

ACT Policing and WorkSafe ACT are investigating the incident. ACT Work Safety Commissioner Greg Jones said four inspectors from WorkSafe ACT attended Bimberi Youth Justice Centre last night.

“Any workplace injury is a concern to WorkSafe ACT and it will conduct its own investigation into the incident,” Mr Jones said.

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34 Responses to Government launches investigation into riot at Bimberi Youth Justice Centre
Capital Retro Capital Retro 5:49 pm 28 Aug 19

“Send them to the AMC. I’m sure they’ll be happy there.”

In what way would they be happy?

Antony Hewitt Antony Hewitt 9:51 am 28 Aug 19

It’s great that so many people out there think that they can do a better job or have the solution, the young people that are sent to Bimberi are not there because they are model citizens or roll models for other young people they are there for various criminal acts and violence within our community am sure your views would change if you were on the receiving end of their crimes, now there is no perfect system of punishment or detention but the staff at Bimberi shouldn’t be blamed for the horrible and totally unnecessary actions of some of these young people

    Roxanne Pickering Roxanne Pickering 10:21 am 28 Aug 19

    Antony Hewitt I certainly wouldn’t want the job of the staff at Bimberi. I have so much admiration for each one of them for what they do on a daily basis. I can only imagine that the young people that are sent there have little to no respect for authority, rules or other people. A very difficult thing to address. I hope all the staff involved are ok 🙏🏻

    Craig Birrell Craig Birrell 7:04 pm 28 Aug 19

    Wishing all the staff there a speedy recovery, ex staff from Malmsbury.

    Liz Walker Liz Walker 1:16 pm 17 Jan 20

    Anthony its funny how u can “judge” these young people when most there are on remand and havent been given the opportunity have their story heard at court and in the eyes of the law they are INNOCENT until proven guilty. Most live life in hell on the outside because of some of the adult/adults all ready in their lives. If some of the adults/ workers break trust or do wrong ful to these kids on the inside. They are going to come out more broken when released. Even worse if they are not convicted and released without charge. I give all the praise for the staff that have it in their hearts to work and care in the system and none to the few who show no compassion for these broken children of our society that they choose to work with. Not everyone has blinkers on and or born with silver spoon in their mouths looking down on those less privileged. EMPATHY to ALL involved

Manda Watson Manda Watson 7:41 am 28 Aug 19

How about the staff at Bimberi look how they treat the young peope in there.

Stop putting the whole centre on lock down when ONE young person is carry on.

Offer an alternative meal not all people like the same foods.

When buy ups come on a friday- ALL the young people receive there orders, They work hard for there points and should get what they have ordered.

When calls are made from the centre to the young peoples families- check the phone line 1st- 2times in a row of bad connection's thru bimberi is not fair for the young people or there families. Its not a call and shouldnt be added as one untill- the young person is talking to there family or friend.

When a young persons lawyer come out and visit, regardless of whats going on inside the centre- they have a right to talk to there lawyer. Not turn the lawyer away and leave the young person confused, worried and unsure of whats going on with there court proceedings.

I am absolutely disgusted in what and how bimberi treat the young people, bimberi attitude toward the young people, not allowing the young peoples friends to visit them.

The young people are tired of being treated like scum, tired of the staff members saying one thing but doing another. And mostly the young people dont deserve to be lock down for over 24hrs and only allowed 30mins outside there cells.

Bimberi have alot to answer for themselves. And instead of everyone worrying about the staff- how about everyone start caring about these young people as well. Not once was it said anything about the young people involved and there injuries.

    Manda Watson Manda Watson 10:28 am 28 Aug 19

    I am a proud mum. And im guessing you have no children.

    But before you start pointing fingers at the young people- how about you ask why? Why did this happen? Why was there not enough staff? Who said anything about the young people and stealing cars and breaking into houses.

    Are you aware that young people have been hurt inside those walls- by STAFF, yet the public is unaware of that.

    Any work place can be unsafe, any work place can have abuse.

    Why are the fingers pointed at the young people? Why havent we heard what they have to say, whats there side.

    The public is not interested in hearing there side, why- because people have already looked at these people as criminals. Funny tho- your innocent until proven guilty. And im aware of young people in bimberi held on remand- they havent even been proven guilty of a crime.

    The staff at bimberi are trained how to deal with situations- just like any work place.

    Why do all the young people at bimberi- who were not involved have to suffer from others behavior and staff behavior?

    Why is it wednesday and still young people in bimberi dont have there buy ups? The young people do study, clean there rooms, wash there clothes, and be independent to get rewarded with a point system all to not get what they have worked hard for. The staff get there pay check at the end of the week. Regardless of the actions and behaviour of other staff members.

    Antony Hewitt Antony Hewitt 12:51 pm 28 Aug 19

    No idea!

Kate Ristevski Kate Ristevski 1:06 am 28 Aug 19

Wishing staff a speedy recovery 🙏🏻

Elise Jane Elise Jane 8:07 pm 27 Aug 19

Thinking of all the brave Bimberi staff involved and their families. 💕

Kiran Sonia Kiran Sonia 5:55 pm 27 Aug 19

Joanna PM I heard it in news this morning. Sounds bad. Hope all recovers well

    Jo Price Jo Price 5:56 pm 27 Aug 19

    me too, I'm at home with a sick boy, so only knew because of the news!

Cindy Mariemalta Cindy Mariemalta 4:29 pm 27 Aug 19

Speedy recovery to all involved 💙💙

    Elouise Aird Elouise Aird 5:28 pm 27 Aug 19

    Cindy Mariemalta second that ❤️ hope they are ok

    Cindy Mariemalta Cindy Mariemalta 5:36 pm 27 Aug 19

    Elouise Aird xx regardless of the circumstances 💙

    Elouise Aird Elouise Aird 5:37 pm 27 Aug 19

    Cindy Mariemalta oh doesn’t sound good ... regardless hope all are ok

Nathan Lofthouse Nathan Lofthouse 2:46 pm 27 Aug 19

Send them to the AMC. I'm sure they'll be happy there.

John Moulis John Moulis 1:32 pm 27 Aug 19

I've only come into contact with kids from the old Quamby once, at Fyshwick in 2008. They looked like lower class ruffians to me. They didn't have any decorum and it was clear that they were not being rehabilitated at all. They also looked a lot older than what you'd expect juvenile offenders to be. A few of them looked like they were in their 20s. Why weren't they in adult prisons?

    Julia Bocking Julia Bocking 4:06 am 28 Aug 19

    because sentences are served in juvenile custody if the offence was committed as a juvenile? your attitude isn't unusual. Most 'youth workers' want the detainees to be moved to an adult facility. I feel these young people are incredibly vulnerable and dependent on adults around them to make good decisions. Not warehousing and punishing them endlessly - detaining IS the punishment. We could learn a lot from European prison philosophy of care

    Nick Stewart Nick Stewart 3:12 pm 30 Aug 19

    Julia Bocking I think it’s a facade and it’s offensive that Bimberi calls it’s workers Youth Workers, they don’t/can’t follow the philosophy of Youth Work in that environment. The job title should be changed before it tarnishes the reputation and relationship Youth Workers have/build with young people.

Christopher Stuart Veilands Christopher Stuart Veilands 1:27 pm 27 Aug 19

Maybe they got upset because the guards turned off the tv

Jason Preston Jason Preston 11:34 am 27 Aug 19


Government won’t refer to it as a Riot

They’ve already called it an ‘incident’

Later it’ll be something like ‘an anomalous and irregular case of low intensity instability in a regulatory non intensive secured environment ‘

Julia Bocking Julia Bocking 10:27 am 27 Aug 19

Riot until all the HRC recommendations are implemented! Go you young things, speak up and out. Louder for those who won’t hear.

    Adele Craven Adele Craven 10:51 am 27 Aug 19

    Julie Bocking Please share what you know. What are the conditions like in Bimberi? and what recommendations are not being implemented?

    Julia Bocking Julia Bocking 11:25 am 27 Aug 19

    practices from Quamby which were deemed questionable at best are continued. Strip and cavity searching of children. No safe areas for young women in their system. A completely confused philosophy of care: is the point to scare the young people or provide a childhood? My pal killed himself in Quamby in 1997 and it saddens me to see the same practices which broke him down continued.

    Allison Correa Allison Correa 12:06 pm 27 Aug 19

    Julia Bocking

    The “youth workers” are poorly trained in that most only hold a cert IV in youth work. It doesn’t give them substantial enough training to cope with teens who have multiple issues/diagnoses/challenges.

    They hold recruitment multiple times a year because the turn over is so high. There are a handful of staff who are well respected by the kids, and, who give respect in return. They joke around with them but are serious when it’s needed. And they know when to not sweat the small stuff.

    Then there are workers who either don’t even try to build rapport and go in guns blazing and the kids arch up or, they try to be “friends” and the kids walk all over them. There is a balance you have to find and Bimberi doesn’t seem to hire many people who know what that balance is.

    Neither are they trained to administer medications except for the course Bimberi runs them through which means kids are on more than one occasion missing out on anti psychotics, Ritalin, anti depressants etc etc

    None of this takes away from the fact that he is responsible for his actions but predictably unpredictable teens and volatile kid’s with multiple challenges, mixed with staff who are ill equipped and have lackadaisical approaches around security is a recipe for disaster.

    Nick Stone Nick Stone 12:42 pm 27 Aug 19

    Julia Bocking

    I'm sorry you lost your friend but to compare Quamby to Bimberi, you are way off the mark.

    Ainsley Fristad Kelly Ainsley Fristad Kelly 4:30 pm 27 Aug 19

    Sandra Randell you are my hero 😍

    Julia Bocking Julia Bocking 4:56 pm 27 Aug 19

    Bimberi has shinier paint on the walls. Same confused philosophy of care. As highlighted by other commenters here. Sure, any comment on a dysfunctional system attracts defensiveness on behalf of the well meaning individuals, or strawman me as one to make comment. Doesn’t change a thing. There are conflicting and unclear ideas around juvenile offenders in Australia.

    Danjal Ross Danjal Ross 10:16 pm 27 Aug 19

    Julia Bocking

    I wonder if u were there if u would think the same

    SC Cores SC Cores 10:35 pm 28 Aug 19

    Why don’t you just let them do what they do at home Julia??? They are juvenile recidivist offenders and should understand they are in kiddy prison not play school.

    Benjamin Bolton Benjamin Bolton 2:43 pm 29 Aug 19

    Julia Bocking yours is exactly the kind of response that personifies everything destructive about social media. Your only justification for victim blaming here is based on a shallow knowledge of an incident at an institution that closed a decade ago. Sitting safely behind your phone and throwing encouragement to juveniles (who have already breached the legislation of the ACT) to behave violently is irresponsible and unacceptable. Conditions inside Bimberi actually comply with the ACTs strenuous Human Rights Legislation, despite regularly housing our most violent and destructive recidivist offenders. If you think you have the courage and patience to work in this area, sign up. Otherwise, show some respect for people willing to do a job most would run a mile from. Inciting public disorder that would result in injuries to other members of our community is disgusting.

    Benjamin Bolton Benjamin Bolton 6:03 pm 29 Aug 19

    For future reference, your comments above on strip/cavity searching of young people is simply offensive and clearly demonstrates zero actual knowledge of ACT Legislation and the powers of juvenile correction staff. Potentially damaging throw-away line giving no consideration to truth, reality or social conscience.

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