When we set out to learn more about reports of dual involved children and young people being held at the Adelaide City Watch House, we quickly discovered that this practice is far more common than we thought. In fact, most of those we have consulted with (that is, children and young people who are both in care and who have also been detained at Kurlana Tapa Youth Justice Centre) told us they have spent time at the City Watch House and that they were being detained alongside adults.
This is alarming, highlighting a practice where children and young people, often with significant trauma, are being placed within an adult facility and potentially subjected to further trauma.
By contrast, international human rights instruments set out that children and young people should only be detained for the shortest time possible, and only as a last resort, and that they have the right to be detained separately from adults.
As part of our South Australian Dual Involved project (SADI), we sat down with the young people to talk about their experiences, including being detained at the City Watch House, (which holds alleged adult offenders in custody, pending court or bail)…
In quoting the children and young people below, we have transcribed their voices, views and fears faithfully and not censored what they say. As well as being a central ethic of our work, we are conscious that, unlike adults or systems, these children and young people have few opportunities to have their voices heard or their interests take precedence. While any allegations they have made may not have not been tested, their comments also reflect their perceptions and feelings, including fear.
One young person told us that they had been held at the City Watch House “Like f****** 40 times at least. They all know my name.”
While dual involved children and young people did not report sharing a cell or space with adults, some did say they were in direct view of adults, including when using the toilet, a practice that can exacerbate trauma and undermine their inherent right to dignity. When asked to describe being in the watch house, one young person said –
It’s weird, man.Like you can, the old men, …you can see them, you know, and they just look at you and you’re just like sh*t*** yourself. They never clean it. It’s so dirty in there. … They can see when you piss – yuck.
Another, who said they had been in the Watch House “about 16 times”, said –
Old men stare at you through the thing when you’re going toilet. … No, it looks feral.It’s feral. … Glass windows and then it has a bed, a toilet, a sink and you can’t even hide yourself when you go toilet. … Us kids go on the same floor as them [adults].
One dual involved young person described the watch house environment as –
It’s sh*t, really feral, man, I will do what they say ‘cause I know I’ll probably get flogged if I don’t.I’ve heard lots of stories, you know, like, like where someone may have got bashed by some of the cops in the city and that.
The same young person reported regarding safety in the city watch house –
I mean, as long as I’m, I’ve got the camera there, that, that’s always going to be recording so something happens to me, like if a cop tries flogging me or something, you know, like there’s always something watching, I guess.
Another young person explained how they felt about safety in the watch house –
No, pretty shit, yeah, and they don’t even put beds in.Like, you got to sit on the f****** hard brick thingy waiting on bail.
All dual involved children and young people who reported these experiences were keen for us to visit the facility to see it for ourselves.
While neither the Guardian for Children and Young People nor the Training Centre Visitor roles currently have mandates to visit children and young people detained in facilities other than Kurlana Tapa, we have made a request of SAPOL to visit the City Watch House to gain a greater understanding of the environment in which these children and young people are being held and to strongly advocate that this practice ceases. We are currently awaiting a response.
If you would like to discuss any of the matters mentioned above, please do not hesitate to contact Conrad at .
Have you missed our other blog posts about dual involved children and young people? Catch up below.
- New project to explore growing numbers of dual involved young people
- Resourcing pressures leading young people to detention
- The good and bad news for Aboriginal ‘dual involved’ children and young people