From the outside, Cleveland Youth Detention Centre is no more than a prison.

But inside, staff are being assaulted, detainees are scaling the walls, and workers fear it is a ticking time bomb.

The peak of these hidden realities bubbled over on Wednesday night when a group of teenage boys scaled the walls and climbed onto the roof of a building, reportedly destroying aerials and airconditioning vents as they laughed at police below.

The teens, two aged 16 and one aged 17, climbed onto the roof during their last education session of the day, according to a CYDC source.

 

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It is unclear what set them off, but the three teenagers damaged the room, reportedly taking iPads and laptops and sat on the roof for more than three hours. The incident sent the centre into lockdown, and police negotiators were called in to try and talk the detainees down.

They came down about 9.30pm without incident, and were taken into custody.

In 2015, the centre was pipped for a $3.4m upgrade to prevent detainees climbing onto the roof.

The Cleveland Youth Detention Centre on Old Common Rd, Belgian Gardens.
The Cleveland Youth Detention Centre on Old Common Rd, Belgian Gardens.

A year later, the centre's worst riot broke out, with 20 youths protesting on the roof of the centre for more than 12 hours.

Staff predicated the latest incident just two weeks earlier, with a source telling the Townsville Bulletin that they feared there would be another riot, or even that a female officer could be held hostage, after a myriad of assaults.

They were scared, and are among multiple other CYDC sources who have spoken out and are fed up with the safety and security risks they face while at work.

Another source feared a trail of assaults, or even a death, would follow if nothing was fixed.

Australian Workers' Union Queensland Northern District secretary Luke Mangano said a full and proper investigation was necessary into the incident, which could have been "much, much worse".

Emergency services responded to a riot at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.
Emergency services responded to a riot at the Cleveland Youth Detention Centre in Townsville. PICTURE: MATT TAYLOR.

"Incidents like this demonstrate the need for more reforms in Youth Justice and the AWU has already established a working committee to continue this body of work," Mr Mangano said.

"The AWU has also consistently called for tougher penalties for young persons who do the wrong thing and threaten the safety of detention officers, and we'll keep standing up for our members every day of the week."

Youth Justice Minister Leanne Linard said her department had "strong processes and programs" in place to keep community safe, but did comment on whether there was a serious safety concern at the centre. "It is not uncommon for high-risk young people to act impulsively but there are consequences for misbehaviour," Ms Linard said.

Youths rioting on top of a building at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: DOMANII CAMERON
Youths rioting on top of a building at Cleveland Youth Detention Centre. Picture: DOMANII CAMERON

"I understand no one was injured during Wednesday's incident, there was minimal damage and the young people voluntarily returned to their rooms. Police will investigate the incident and the young people will be held to account."

Ms Linard did not comment on any immediate measures she would take to ensure another incident did not occur.

Originally published as STAFF IN FEAR: Welcome to the Cleveland jungle


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