Social contact with the outside world is crucial to the emotional well being of young people, but there are even more serious reasons for the existence of volunteer visitation programs. The transparency involved in opening institutions facilitates a form of community oversight which helps protect children from abuse by those charged with their care.
Fifteen years ago the Forde Inquiry examined the treatment of children in Queensland institutions including youth detention.
The Commission’s findings included a recommendation that visitors from the community be allowed regular access to correctional centres and other institutions.
Rosies first entered the Sir Leslie Wilson Youth Detention Centre in 1998. When that institution was closed – another recommendation of the Inquiry – the visitation program moved to the new Brisbane Youth Detention Centre.
Rosies volunteers currently visit boys and girls in the Centre on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons, engaging them in card games, recreational sport, and friendly conversation.
The centre’s residents are overwhelmingly from disadvantaged backgrounds. Indigenous youth are also concerningly over-represented: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprise approximately 2% of the population, but represent around 50% of detainees.
Inquiry chair and Rosies patron Leneen Forde recently spoke of the importance of Rosies’ presence in the Brisbane Youth Detention Centre.
‘One of the key findings that the (Forde) Inquiry made was for young people in correctional centres and institutions to have access to sympathetic visitors who visited them and helped them to get their lives back on track,’ she said.
Outside prison, volunteers are restricted from acknowledging young people they have met through visitation programs. It’s not unusual though for patrons to approach a street team and self-identify as having engaged with Rosies inside prison – often they are glad of a familiar face.
Because volunteers are present both inside and outside of prison, Rosies serves as a social anchor for young people who find integration into ordinary life difficult.
To support Rosies Youth Detention Centre visitation program, click here to make a donation.