Detention Centres

Territory Families operates two youth detention centres: Don Dale Youth Detention Centre in Darwin and the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre in Alice Springs.

Young people are sentenced to youth detention by the Courts. On average there are about 25 young people in youth detention across the Northern Territory each day. This includes young men and women and those that are on remand or have been sentenced. 

The Northern Territory Government has committed $60 million to build a new purpose-built Youth Justice Centre in Darwin, in line with the recommendations made by the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the NT.

An additional $10 million is being spent to redevelop existing infrastructure at the Alice Springs Youth Detention centre to better meet the needs of at risk young people, detention centre staff and visitors. Construction work will begin later this year. 

A 10 Year Strategic Youth Justice Infrastructure Masterplan is currently being developed for the Northern Territory, to ensure a long-term and sustainable approach to the delivery of youth justice services.

Darwin Youth Justice Centre site selection

A greenfield site located at Holtze has been chosen as the location for the new Darwin Youth Justice Centre.

The Northern Territory Government identified and investigated seven potential sites for the development of a new youth justice centre in the Greater Darwin area.

These sites included:

  • A greenfield site at Holtze (chosen)
  • An area within the Holtze Prison site
  • The former Gunn Point Prison farm site
  • A site at Gunn Point Murrumujuk
  • A site in Batchelor near the Batchelor Institute
  • The Former Wickham Point Immigration Detention Centre Facility
  • The southern portion of the current Don Dale site

Each of the seven sites were identified through consideration of a range of criteria, including land tenure (ownership), land size and accessibility, proximity to services including emergency response, service availability (power and water), appropriateness for staff access, and existing usage and zoning.

Each site was assessed and their opportunities and risks considered. As a result, a greenfield site at Holtze has been chosen as the site for the new Darwin Youth Justice Centre.

Chosen site

The greenfield site is on 15 hectares of Vacant Crown Land that has been rezoned to Community Purpose. It is a large site that is easily accessible for staff, service providers, emergency services and visitors.

The site best meets the criteria to develop a new Youth Justice Centre. It will ensure that young people who do the wrong thing face the consequences of their actions while making sure that their time spent in detention is effectively used to get them back on track and prevent further reoffending.

Key opportunities:

  • A large site that is easily accessible for staff, visitors and service providers
  • Close to professional services including health, police and emergency services.
  • Meets rehabilitative and therapeutic design principals.
  • Highly vegetated site to provide environmental barriers and buffer zones.
  • Access to existing road, power and water services

Design & development

The designs for the Darwin Youth Justice Centre have been finalised, and this project will see a new youth justice centre constructed on a greenfield site at 498 Taylor Road, Holtze.

The new centre strikes a balance between ensuring facilities are secure, safe, robust and durable, while meeting the therapeutic and rehabilitative needs of young people sentenced to detention or on remand.

Key features include:

  • 30 bedrooms equipped with a shower, toilet, desk and access to drinking water. The rooms are housed within three accommodation blocks that each contain recreation, living and dining areas, as well as program delivery and outdoor spaces.
  • A learning and training hub to support the delivery of traditional schooling and vocational education and training activities.
  • A reception area equipped with equitable screening facility for staff, visitors and service providers as well as visitation spaces to facilitate in-person and virtual conferencing with family, Elders, mentors, and legal, youth justice and support service providers.
  • A health and wellbeing hub, including a dental consultation room and space for an audiology booth.
  • An admissions area equipped with contemporary scanning technology and an orientation area to provide a detailed induction to the centre for newly arriving young people.
  • The latest security systems will be installed including perimeter security, movement-detecting cameras, advanced CCTV system, contemporary digital access technology and full body scanners, which can detect a broader range of contraband than the current devices in use.
  • The external perimeter fence will be 5.4 metres in height and constructed of anti-climb mesh to ensure the security of the facility. A cowl (fixed barrel) topper will be installed on the majority of the external fencing to provide a strong security reinforcement and deterrent.
  • Open-plan office space for youth justice staff and government and non-government health, wellbeing, education, and specialist assessment treatment service providers.

Youth justice staff have provided input into and feedback on the design.

Young people, along with a broad cross section of representatives from government, Aboriginal organisations, service providers, NGOs and stakeholders, have also been consulted during the design process through Specialist Advisory Groups (SAGs). The SAGs were formed to make sure the infrastructure enables the delivery of evidence-based restorative and culturally appropriate programs that lead to improved outcomes for young people.

Construction works could begin from July 2020, pending measures and impacts arising from the unfolding coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. 

The Don Dale Youth Detention Centre will continue to operate during the construction phase.

For more information, read the Darwin Youth Justice Centre design features leaflet.

Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre redeveopment

The Northern Territory Government is investing $10 million to refurbish the existing Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre to better meet the needs of young people, detention centre staff, and visitors.

Construction work will begin in early 2020 with redevelopment to include an expanded footprint to support rehabilitation programs. This will include new facilities for health care, program delivery, more space for education, training, and outdoor education. 

The improvements will be achieved through delivery of new facilities and upgrade of existing facilities that will support youth justice programs in a safe and secure environment.

A new Northern Territory Government 10-year Youth Justice Infrastructure Masterplan has been developed to ensure a long-term and sustainable approach to youth justice in the NT. This plan includes the replacement of the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre with a new youth justice centre in the future. Replacing the Alice Springs Youth Detention Centre was not a recommendation of the Royal Commission.