Subscribe to News
News  |  Social Affairs

Court Rules Children in Barwon Prison Illegal

Wednesday, 21st December 2016 at 12:15 pm
Lina Caneva
The Supreme Court in Victoria has ruled that the transfer and detention of children to Barwon Prison is unlawful and they must be moved.

Wednesday, 21st December 2016
at 12:15 pm
Lina Caneva



Court Rules Children in Barwon Prison Illegal
Wednesday, 21st December 2016 at 12:15 pm

The Supreme Court in Victoria has ruled that the transfer and detention of children to Barwon Prison is unlawful and they must be moved.

The court ordered the children be moved to a suitable youth justice facility by 4pm Thursday.

The decision follows a legal challenge, launched by Fitzroy Legal Service and the Human Rights Law Centre, against the government’s transfer of children to Barwon maximum security adult jail.

The Victorian Government decided to move the children to Barwon Prison after the youth detention facility in Parkville was damaged in a recent teenage riot and the complex needed repair.

However, the government agreed not to transfer any Aboriginal children to adult jail.

Ruth Barson, director of legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that children do not belong in the state’s most notorious and hardened adult prison.

“While the government no doubt has a policy challenge on its hands, cruelty towards children can never be the answer. The government must find alternatives to exposing children to the harm of an adult jail,” Barson said.  

The case was heard over four days last week. There was evidence given that children had been held in solitary confinement, had been exposed to guard dogs and corrections officers who did not have a working with children check, and that children were not getting proper access to education or schooling.

Manager of social action at Fitzroy Legal Service Meghan Fitzgerald said that all children had the right to be held in a safe environment, capable of meeting their basic developmental needs.

“The decision to transfer children to an adult jail set a dangerous precedent. We have a duty as a community to steer these kids along the right track. My clients are fearful and distressed – they belong in classrooms developing skills that allow them to contribute, not locked down in concrete boxes,” Fitzgerald said.

UNICEF Australia urged governments to urgently consider options to remove all children from adult detention facilities.

“Children do not belong in adult prison facilities, let alone a maximum security adult jail. As conditions in the Northern Territory have recently demonstrated to us again, punitive and control-based systems are costly, ineffective and extremely harmful to vulnerable youth,” the head of policy and advocacy at UNICEF Australia Amy Lamoin said.

Lamoin said mounting evidence showed that Australia was falling short of basic international standards to protect children in detention.

“The purpose of a youth justice system is to rehabilitate and reintegrate children who are found guilty of offences. Australia needs national standards and improved monitoring and oversight to ensure children are receiving the appropriate care,” she said.

“Youth detainees should always be placed in an environment which provides for the effective rehabilitation of young people, staffed by qualified personnel and with access to child-specific services. Punitive measures continue a no-win cycle for children and the community.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at

Get more stories like this


Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Charitable advocacy comes under threat in Queensland

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at 3:57 pm

Foreign Donations Bill Changes Labelled a Win For Charities

Luke Michael

Friday, 21st September 2018 at 5:44 pm

Foreign Donations Bill Could be in Breach of Constitution

Luke Michael

Friday, 12th January 2018 at 3:56 pm


How are Aussie charities helping in the bushfire crisis?

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 7th January 2020 at 3:21 pm

What impact will the bushfire crisis have on homelessness?

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at 4:28 pm

The rise (and scepticism) of Facebook fundraisers

Maggie Coggan

Thursday, 16th January 2020 at 8:49 am

Bushfire resources for people with disability


Wednesday, 15th January 2020 at 4:54 pm

Subscribe to News
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!