Malmsbury: Staff living in fear of inmates

By Benjamin Preiss/The Age

Youth detention centre staff are refusing to report assaults against them to police because they fear revenge attacks from inmates, Victoria’s police union says.

The Victorian Police Association told a parliamentary inquiry into youth justice that centre workers believed they would be threatened by inmates if serious assaults were investigated.

Association secretary Wayne Gatt said there were “many cases” in which police received complaints from centre staff who were unwilling to have matters investigated.

“It perpetuates a level of inactivity by staff …to actually make a report to the police because they don’t think the system is going to protect them,” he told the inquiry.

Victoria’s troubled youth justice system has been plagued by unrest and riots, including an outbreak from the Malmsbury detention centre before several inmates embarked on a crime spree across Victoria earlier this year.

Sergeant Gatt said that staff felt ill-equipped and inadequately trained to deal with violent offenders.

He also said Victoria needed new high-security centres to separate violent inmates from those who were willing to engage in education and required a less intensive security environment.

Early this year the state government announced it would build a new high-security youth detention facility in Melbourne’s west.

The inquiry heard police were being called up to six times a day to the Parkville and Malmsbury detention centres.

Sergeant Gatt said the constant call-outs to youth detention centres was having a “profound” impact on police resources.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department said staff safety was a top priority and treated with the “utmost seriousness”.

The spokeswoman said all violent or dangerous behaviour must be reported by staff and referred to police for investigation.

Victoria’s youth justice system has lost almost 100 workers in six years, with staff citing poor treatment by management, the Community and Public Sector Union told the inquiry.

The state government has also suffered repeated legal setbacks in its attempts to keep youth inmates in a juvenile unit of the adult Barwon Prison.

Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos and senior bureaucrats were unable to tell a budget estimates committee on Tuesday how much the government had spent defending three failed court cases over the teens in Barwon.