Dylan Voller, the youth infamously tortured at the Don Dale prison, has launched a searing indictment of the criminal justice system.
Footage of the systematic abuse of Dylan since his first jailing at 11 years of age aired on Four Corners last August sparked national outrage. The federal government sought to minimise the fallout by announcing a Royal Commission into child protection and juvenile detention systems in the Northern Territory. But the hearings have so far done nothing to discourage the abuse ingrained in the system.
Dylan is still in jail, despite being eligible for parole since October 2015. He is being controlled by some of the very same guards who tormented him in Don Dale.
Guards threatened violence if he testified and he was even escorted into court by guards who he says have previously assaulted him, without a word of protest from the Commissioners.
Colin Rogan, the father of another former Don Dale inmate Kenny Rogan, received a phone call on 11 January where “a person who sounded like he had some authority” threatened to “slit the throats” of Colin and Kenny if the youth testified at the Royal Commission. Kenny has alleged that while he was in Don Dale, guards stripped off his clothes with a knife.
Dylan bravely defied the threats made against him and gave a powerful statement to the Commission.
He told further harrowing details of his abuse including being routinely starved, denied water, sleep or access to a toilet. He said, “The problem is the justice system itself… young people need love and someone to talk to, not to be locked in a cell”. He also spoke out against the blatant racism common in prisons and juvenile detention centres.
Dylan’s long-time caseworker Antoinette Carroll told the Commission that he was not a violent boy before he was first forced into detention and abused by guards.
She said that he had never been given therapeutic or rehabilitative options despite pleading guilty to his crimes, and was “set up to fail” in a cycle of incarceration. Carroll said being raised in a violent prison environment contributed to his later violent offending, for which he received a three year sentence.
Dylan was punished yet again by having his phone calls to family cut, as revenge for his stand against the system. To protest this, his mother Joanne stood in silence with duct tape covering her mouth at a Human Rights Day rally led by Aboriginal people in Sydney on 10 December. By speaking out and joining protests, his family have provided an important lead and helped the truth come out.
The Grandmothers Against Removals (GMAR) Sydney group played a crucial role in the December 10 rally. Across NSW, GMAR has been successfully supporting Indigenous families who have had their kids taken by “child protection” workers to fight back against the department.
That’s why it’s crucial that there is a mass turnout at the 13 February rally on the anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations, calling for the closure of youth prisons, Aboriginal control of Aboriginal child welfare and to bring the kids home.
Only a campaign of protest and public pressure can force change.
By Miro Sandev