Qld's dark history: floggings, rape at boys home

SHOCKING revelations about the treatment of children behind bars have sent shock waves across the country.

The Four Corners report aired by ABC on Monday showed the shocking scene of a boy hooded, shackled, strapped to a chair and left alone.

The investigation into the juvenile justice in the Northern Territory has sparked calls for a Royal Commission.

But Toowoomba has its own dark history regarding the incarceration of children.

Alison Alloway took to social media to link the situation at Don Dale Detention Centre to the now defunct Westbrook Youth Detention Centre.

She said the situation in at Don Dale was not unique to Australian history.

"In Queensland, the Westbrook Farm Home for Boys near Toowoomba was a place of hell for young boys where whippings, food and medical deprivation were commonplace," she said.

"At least two boys died there and their deaths were never investigated."

Ms Alloway questioned why those atrocities kept happening.

"In Westbrook, only one parent, a father, kept going from pillar to post, complaining, complaining until someone did listen," she said.

"What about the staff? Nope.

"Those who couldn't handle it, left.

"(They said it's) 'Not my problem. Don't get involved' and so it goes on and on."

An auction in May 2013 closed the dark chapter of the facility.

The Westbrook Farm Home for Boys was the most feared 'reformatory' in Australia.
The Westbrook Farm Home for Boys was the most feared 'reformatory' in Australia.

When it opened on 5 May 1900, it was called Westbrook Farm Home for Boys -  the most feared "reformatory" in the country.

Mark Greenhalgh wrote to a Senate Community Affairs References Committee about his experiences.

He said the abuse he suffered there affected his whole life.

At the age of seven he was termed a "neglected child in need of proper care and protection", made a ward of the State of Queensland and removed from his mother, brothers and sisters.

He was put into an orphanage in Brisbane where he said boys were abused physically, sexually and emotionally.

"We were constantly cold, hungry and suffering from beatings, and made to feel worthless and unwanted," he said.

Before he turned 12 he was sentenced to the Westbrook Farm Home for Boys.

"Although sentenced to only two years, I was forced to remain incarcerated for 5 1/2 years until shortly before I turned 18. Nobody ever explained why."

Mr Greenhalgh said the state-run reformatory for boys was run by warders who were sadistic and brutal.

"We were treated as slave labour under the harshest conditions, working from dawn to dusk each day and every day in the fields, the quarry, the farm, the kitchens, bathrooms and laundries.

"I was deprived of proper schooling when they refused to allow me to sit for my scholarship exam and sent me to work full time on the farm when I was still 13."

Mr Greenhalgh said one sadistic superintendent took "great pleasure" in humiliating the boys publicity, flogging them with his heavy leather belt while they knelt naked at his feet.

"You could receive anything up to 60 lashes and you always ended up bleeding profusely. Sometimes boys lost consciousness. They were the lucky ones."

"Naturally there was also sexual abuse. It took place in the showers, mostly.

"Sometimes it was the warders who did it, other times it was the bigger, older boys who abused the smaller, younger ones.

"That sexual abuse was the least of our worries should tell you how bad things really were."

Former prisoner William 'Billy' Stokes wrote a book in 2010 called "Brutal: Surviving Westbrook Boys Home" about his time at the institution.

He said he was the victim of "vicious beatings" by prison guards.

Mr Stokes also wrote about verbal abuse, what he said was rotten and inadequate food, back-breaking labour and the thread-bare institution-issued clothes.

They wore the clothes despite the harsh Westbrook winters.

In March 1994, a serious incident resulted in major damage to the facilities at the centre.

The Chronicle reported in 2013 that an investigation was conducted and a report tabled in Parliament on April 12, 1994. The Westbrook Youth Detention Centre was closed on June 30, 1994.

Westbrook was among the institutions investigated as part of the 1998 Commission of Inquiry into Abuse of Children in Queensland Institutions (also known as the Forde Inquiry).

History of name changes

History of name changes

  • 1900 - Starts life as Westbrook Reformatory for Boys
  • 1919 - Name changed to the Farm Home for Boys
  • 1966 - Renamed Westbrook Training Centre
  • 1987 - Becomes Westbrook Youth Centre
  • 1993 - Renamed Westbrook Youth Detention Centre
  • 1994 - Transformed into Darling Downs Correctional Centre
  • 2012 - Closed and put on the market

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