Last updated 10 May 2022

There are two youth detention centres in Queensland, the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre at Wacol in Brisbane and the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville.

Some young people can be a long way from their homes and communities. This may make it difficult, if not impossible, for them to have personal contact with family and friends, which may affect their behaviour and how well they deal with situations and circumstances.

Transfer to prison

Currently a child ordered to serve a sentence of detention and who, as at their 18th birthday will have at least six months remaining on their sentence, will be subject to automatic transfer to an adult prison following their birthday (pt 8 div 2A Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) (Youth Justice Act)).

It is possible in some circumstances to apply for a temporary delay. It would be important for the young person to talk to their lawyer if they have particular concerns about their transfer.


The Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs manages Queensland’s two detention centres through Youth Justice services. Departmental policy allows a child in a Queensland detention centre up to four visits a week. This is important as it means, for example, a child does not have to choose between contact with their family or meeting their lawyer.

Ordinary visitors

Detention centre staff have the power to (s 272 Youth Justice Act):

  • approve the entry of visitors
  • refuse entry to a person who, in their opinion, would prejudice the security or good order of the centre and does not when requested:
    • provide name, address, or proof of identity
    • agree to an external search of their person or a search of anything in their possession
    • comply with a direction considered necessary for the security or good order of the centre
  • require a visit to be in the presence or under the supervision of a detention centre employee
  • ask the visitor to leave for failure to comply with a search or direction.

Legal practitioners

A legal practitioner representing a child held in a detention centre is entitled to access at all reasonable times. In practice, visiting can only take place on weekdays and booking a time is required.

Any interview with the child at the detention centre must be out of the hearing of other people, and correspondence between the child and the child’s legal representative must not be opened, copied, removed or read (s 276 Youth Justice Act).

Community visitors

A youth detention centre is a ‘visitable site’ under the Public Guardian Act 2014 (Qld). Through its community visitor scheme, the community visitor has a responsibility to regularly:

  • inspect the centre and report on its appropriateness for the accommodation of the child or the delivery of services to the child
  • ensure the child’s needs are being met by staff members at the centre.

A child or a child living in a visitable site can contact a community visitor by phone, SMS message or email whenever they need to. They can also request a visit from the community visitor in addition to any regular visits.

Any request for a visit must be passed on and the community visitor must then make contact or visit as soon as can reasonably be arranged.


A child in detention or their parent can complain about something that affects the child. The detention centre has a process for dealing with complaints, but the child can contact their lawyer, the community visitor of the centre or a child advocacy officer at the Office of the Public Guardian for help in making a complaint.