The Victorian Coalition Government will continue its improvements to the state's youth justice system, with a new $54.5 million infrastructure commitment announced today by Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge.
Officially opening the single point entry (reception) building at the Parkville Youth Justice Precinct, Ms Wooldridge said the new capital funding package would help address capacity constraints and create an improved physical environment focused on rehabilitation and education.
"We inherited a system that had significant capacity constraints and infrastructure-related security issues, which we immediately took steps to address by developing a feasibility plan through funding from the last Budget," Ms Wooldridge said.
"Based on that plan, we are adding 45 new beds at the Malmsbury Youth Justice Centre and reconfiguring existing accommodation at Parkville for optimal usage.
"With more accommodation we also get greater flexibility at the two centres. This will help ensure that young people on remand are accommodated separately to sentenced offenders, and that female and male detainees and younger and older detainees are separated," Ms Wooldridge said.
Opened today, the new $4.8 million single entry point building replaces all other entrances to the Parkville Precinct and significantly enhances security and entry procedures.
It provides appropriate facilities for physical searches, while enabling state-of-the-art security procedures for admission of both visitors and detainees, with iris scanning and metal and drug detectors.
In addition to the new entry point building, the entire precinct has been refurbished to create a much safer and healthier environment that engenders respect for property, staff and detainees.
"The rotten carpet is gone, the graffiti is being managed, the paintwork is respectable and importantly, it is now being appropriately maintained," Ms Wooldridge said.
"The Government has also invested in what was an under-valued workforce and is piloting a new education model at Parkville this year that is potentially world-best practice for incarcerated young people."
Ms Wooldridge said the Coalition Government had closed the book on a shameful period at the Parkville precinct.
"We have come a long way since October 2010, when the Victorian Ombudsman released a scathing report on Parkville under Labor management, labelling it disgraceful, unsafe, dirty, unhygienic and ill-maintained," Ms Wooldridge said
The Ombudsman found that conditions at Parkville were in breach of the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty, Australasian Juvenile Justice Administration Standards for Juvenile Custodial Facilities, the recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; and government health regulations.
"Since being elected shortly after the Ombudsman handed down his findings, the Coalition Government has focused on refurbishing the physical environment at Parkville, reforming the workforce and its culture, establishing an appropriate level of educational provision, and ensuring the safety and security of the precinct and the detainees," Ms Wooldridge said.
"As of today, all of the 27 Ombudsman's recommendations have been implemented and all of the major action areas outlined in the earlier Comrie Review – including the commissioning of this new single entry point building – have been addressed."
To ensure independent monitoring of the precinct on an ongoing basis, the Government has put in place a new Independent Visitor Program managed by the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner.
Ms Wooldridge said the Coalition Government was committed to a strong youth justice system that holds young offenders accountable for their actions, but also provides an environment that helps reduce reoffending by offering proactive rehabilitation.
"I am proud of the positive changes the Coalition Government has made in youth justice to significantly enhance the safety, rehabilitation and education of incarcerated young people," Ms Wooldridge said.