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February 24, 2023

The announcement from the State Government on Tuesday that adult offenders will be removed from youth detention centres is a win for common sense.

It’s not rocket science that adult offenders belong in adult prison and youth offenders belong in youth detention.

Adult offenders tend to be physically larger and stronger than younger detainees, meaning that the effect of their violence tends to be more severe.

AWU members welcome their removal from their workplace, just like they welcome more capacity for youth detention in Queensland.

As Queenslanders, AWU members also accept the need for greater community safety from violent youth offenders.

However, what they will not accept is any move by this Government that makes these centres more unsafe than they already are.

It’s no secret that AWU members in youth detention are subject to extreme workplace violence – in 2022, there was an average of over 5 assaults on staff by youth offenders every single week.

These statistics would not be acceptable in any other industry in modern Australia.

These assaults are being driven by chronic staffing shortages and a culture from management of dismissing the risk assessments workers are making from the floor.

AWU members in youth detention drew a line in the sand last year when workers made the decision to exercise their right to not undertake unsafe work.

As a result of their action, workers have begun to see a gradual improvement in this culture from management.

However, the reality is that this crackdown on youth crime will mean more youth offenders in remand and more demand on an already-struggling system.

The Government must not cut corners in a rush to find a quick-fix solution to temporarily increase capacity in youth detention.

If they do, lives will be put at risk.

The AWU is putting the Queensland Government on notice that any move that makes these workplaces even more unsafe will be met with extreme resistance by AWU members in youth detention.

AWU members in youth detention are strong, they are united and they are deadly serious about their health and safety at work.

They are Queenslanders, and they are entitled to the same degree of safety from these youth offenders as anybody else.

The AWU will continue to engage with the Department in good faith to deliver better safety outcomes for our members and the Queensland community at large.

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