Australian teen Dylan Voller abused by guards, photographed in restraints and a spit hood, was football-loving teenager

July 26, 2016 6:28 am

Shocking footage has emerged of an Australian youth detention
center, showing the guards beating teenage detainees, teargassing them
and keeping them in solitary confinement for hours.

The
CCTV footage, which was aired by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation
(ABC) late on Monday, had been filmed in the Don Dale Youth Detention
Center in Northern Territory between 2010-2014.
The video showed
the youths being stripped naked by the guards at the facility, thrown by
the neck into a cell and held for long periods in solitary confinement.
In
one instance, a hooded boy was seen shackled to a mechanical restraint
chair by his neck, arms, legs and feet in a room, where he is left alone
for hours.
The video also showed the guards mocking the young detainees.
The horrific footage and images prompted Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to order an investigation into the incident.

“We will be establishing a Royal Commission in to these
events, into this center,” said Turnbull, adding, “We want to know how
this came about, we want to know what lessons can be learned from it, we
want to know why.”

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles also said he was “shocked and disgusted” by the footage.
“A community is judged by the way it treats its children and serious questions were raised,” he said in a statement.

A scene from footage broadcast by ’s ABCIn
2015, a report into the mistreatment of children by the Northern
Territory Children’s Commissioner found fault with the behavior of
guards, but it was disputed by the then head of prisons and not acted
upon, according to the ABC.
The Northern Territory has the highest rate of youth detention in Australia.
Local
human rights activists say UK-based rights body Amnesty International
has already warned Australian officials about the abuse of children in
the Northern Territory prisons.
They say the government has turned a blind eye to the issue because the teens involved were indigenous.
“As
this program shows, these are not isolated incidents,” said Julian
Cleary, Indigenous Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Australia.

“The
(Northern Territory) government has failed to deal with systemic issues
with the treatment of children in its youth detention system,” she
added.

Save the Children, however, said the investigation needed to be Australia-wide, and not just into the Northern Territory.
Last month, an inquiry into the Australian military found teenage recruits were subjected to horrendous physical and sexual abuse by their senior officers.
The
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, which
conducted the inquiry, has already examined churches, sports bodies and
the entertainment industry.

He
was a football-loving teenager who ended up committing a 24-hour
spree while high on ice, and now shocking photographs of him restrained
and wearing a “spit hood” in juvenile detention have gone around the
world.
For Dylan Voller, the Australian teenager whose
mistreatment in a Northern Territory juvenile facility will now become
part of a royal commission into indigenous youth custody, the trauma is
not over.
A Northern Territory youth worker who knows and has
cared for Voller in the past said the teen, who is now 19, “has been in
and out of trouble, needs to get serious counselling and it needs to be
funded by the government”.

“It’s no easy journey for Dylan,” the youth worker said.
“If
a boy commits a crime, I’m not saying they don’t have to face the
music, but where’s the duty of care? They need a place where they can be
safe.”
Dylan’s sister Kira said that her brother “deserves his life back” and had “lost everything”.
Ms Voller said her brother had “lost hope”.
“The last time I went to visit him there was no
smile, there was no emotion, there was nothing, I couldn’t give him
anything to be positive about and that really broke me,” Ms Voller said.
“I want him to know he’s still a person and people still love him and he still has hope for a life.
“He’s been in and out of jail from the age of 11, 10,” Kira told ABC radio. “That’s half of his whole life.”
Just
four years ago, Dylan Voller was photographed calmly sitting on the
grass with his friend Leighton at a Saturday rugby grand final match in
Alice Springs.
But the young teenager had a troubled past.
The
youth worker told .com.au that the then 14-year-old had “underlying
trauma” and had been in trouble with the NT Police as a juvenile.
A youth justice advocacy project worker had reported that Voller had suffered “anger issues” and had a “propensity to spit”.
Then
on February 7, 2014, Voller got drunk and “high on ice” and with two
other young men went on a 24-hour crime spree, attacking two men and a
police officer.
It was during his incarceration following being
found guilty for this series of incidents that Voller was placed in
restraints and the spit hood in the now infamous Don Dale Youth
Detention Centre in Darwin.
ABC-TV’s Four Corners showed images
of Voller hooded and strapped into a mechanical restraint chair for
almost two hours in March 2015, when he was serving a total of two years
and three months’ minimum sentence.

Still image of 17-year-old Dylan Voller,
restrained and fitted with a spit hood inside the Youth Detention Centre
in Alice Springs. Photo / ABC/Four Corners
The report on Voller and other boys’ disturbing detention has seen the first scalp claimed.
Northern
Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles this afternoon announced he had
removed John Elferink as Corrections Minister, installing himself in the
role.
Voller’s spree began in Alice Spring’s iconic Todd Street,
where he and the two other young men tried to rob a man walking to
work.
A court later heard that Voller, then a slightly built
teen, ran bare-chested at the man, yelling “you fat white racist dog.
You yelled at us”.
The three teens took the man’s wallet, knocked him to the pavement and kicked him in the ribs.
Still
high on drugs the following day, the boys ambushed Luke McIntyre near a
store where the 17-year-old was trying to buy cigarettes.
Voller
struck him with a mop handle, punched him in the face and stole his
wallet. McIntyre was bashed unconscious, then his three assailants fled
in a Holden Commodore.
Voller was behind the wheel and tried to run down a “terrified” Constable Gerard Reardon who had ordered the trio to stop.
On
August 13, 2014, Northern Territory Supreme Court Justice Peter Barr
sentenced Voller to a maximum of three years and eight months for
attempted robbery, aggravated robbery and recklessly endangering serious
harm.
Voller, who was already in custody, had a 20 month
non-parole period to serve. Justice Barr noted that the 16-year-old had a
very troubled past, dating back to when he was an 11-year-old and had
committed more than 50 offences, including crimes of violence, over five
years.
Placed in custody in the Don Dale centre, Voller was regarded as a “notorious” juvenile prisoner.
The
ABC reported that he was subjected to a “catalogue … of abuse” in
detention centres in Darwin and Alice Springs over the last five years.
Four
Corners reported that on two occasions after he was found in his cell
crying, guards grabbed Dylan Voller around the neck, stripped him naked
and held him down.
CCTV footage obtained by the ABC show prison
officers tear gassing male juvenile prisoners following a “riot” at Don
Dale centre in August 2014.
Voller’s sister Kira said she held
the guards responsible for her brothers’ behaviour, and she wanted to
see the law permitting the use of mechanical restraints overturned.
“What
I’d really like to see is … for them to take accountability for the
fact that they damaged him a lot more than helped,” she said.
“These
people are already full-grown adults and made the decision to harm that
child while they were working,” she said. “The government gave them
that responsibility, to care for these kids, and instead they abused
that role.”
A Northern Territory youth worker told news.com.au
that an alternative safe centre for juvenile offenders had been all but
abandoned during successive NT governments due to pressure from child
protection workers.
“I’ve seen kids who have been stabbed or
contracted sexually transmitted diseases in custody,” he said. “They
need protection, not abuse.”

Earlier, the first scalp has been claimed over the shocking mistreatment of
children in a Northern Territory detention facility exposed in an ABC
report last night.
Chief Minister Adam Giles this afternoon
announced he had removed John Elferink as Corrections Minister,
installing himself in the role.
Addressing reporters in Darwin,
Mr Giles blamed the scandal on a “culture of cover-up” within the
territory’s juvenile corrections system.
Senior Government
figures in the Northern Territory earlier described footage showing the
teargassing and torture of children in a Darwin detention facility as
shocking, but there’s no way some of them could really be shocked.

Video of an Australian teenager strapped into a mechanical
restrains chair, wearing a “spit hood”, and footage of boys being
sprayed with tear gas after spending hours locked in solitary cells were
aired in during ABC’s Four Corners last night.
These disturbing
images and other details of the treatment of children in correctional
facilities have prompted a “deeply shocked” Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull to quickly call for a Royal Commission into the treatment of
children at the Don Dale detention centre in Darwin, where the footage
was collected.
NT government figures, Mr Giles and Mr Elferink,
have backed the call and expressed their own shock, but not everyone was
buying it.
Revelations that tear gas was being used in NT
children’s correctional facilities were published in a report released
by the Territory’s children’s commissioner last year.
The head of indigenous advocacy group the North Australian
Aboriginal Justice Agency, Priscilla Collins, said she had seen the
video of a hooded boy shackled to a chair in Don Dale “a few years ago”,
and that the NT government would have had access to the footage.
She
told Sky News her organisation had been calling for action by the NT
Government for years, and that there had been several reports presented
to government and not acted on.
NT Opposition Leader Michael
Gunner appeared to accuse the government of a cover-up, saying they had
access all the materials exposed in the Four Corners report.
“The
NT Government. They have had full access to all of this. They are the
ones we have been arguing with when we called for the Chief Minister to
sack the Corrections Minister for a range of failings including this,”
he said.
Federal Labor MP Linda Burney, the first indigenous
woman elected to the lower house, said how much the government knew was
the key question.
“I want to know as does everyone else … did or did they not know this was going on?” she said on ABC radio.
“It
is just inconceivable to me that someone that has worked in government
that has been head of a government agency, that there was not knowledge
of these practices and these instances in the Northern Territory, and
that needs to be exposed.
“I do not believe that they did not know.”
There have been several calls for the NT government to be thrown out and involved ministers to be sacked.
Indigenous leader and Senator Pat Dodson has called for the NT attorney-general to stand down.
“The
person who is responsible for the oversight of these duties and
responsibilities, if they’ve got any honour about them, ought to stand
aside voluntarily or they ought to be sat aside by their chief
minister,” he said.
“These kids have been subject to this torture
and mistreatment since 2010 basically, and some of them repeatedly, and
you can’t allow the people who have been in charge of this … to
remain in charge.”
Prominent members of the legal community have
called for the NT government to have “as little contact with possible”
with the running of the royal commission.
“It needs to be taken
out of the hands of the NT government straight away. They are proven to
lack capacity, proven to not be honest with the public about the facts,”
Jared Sharp, a senior lawyer with the North Australia Aboriginal
Justice Agency, told AAP.
John Lawrence, a former vice president
of the NT Bar Association, called for the commission head and
investigators to be brought in from interstate.
“There should be as little contact with anyone associated with the NT government as possible,” he added.
Mr
Lawrence also believes NT corrections minister and attorney-general
John Elferink has been “asleep” on the job, given the territory
Children’s Commissioner had published a report a year ago raising
similar concerns.
“If he has failed to look at the direct best
evidence then he’s just asleep on the job, derelict, negligent,” Mr
Lawrence told AAP. “One way or the other he is totally unfit for
office.”
The involvement of NT authorities has not been the only criticism of the hastily announced Royal Commission.
Mr
Turnbull said the royal commission should concentrate on the Done Dale
Youth Detention Centre specifically, and would not be expanded at this
stage to other centres.
“There may be other matters connected to
that to be looked into, but it’s very important with inquiries that they
have a clear focus,” he told ABC radio.
“We will get to the bottom of this swiftly and we will identify the lessons that need to be learned.”
The
moment Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a Royal Commission
into the treatment of children at a Northern Territory juvenile
detention centre, refugee advocates responded calling for the commission
to be expanded to take in the wider issues of treatment of children in
detention, including on Nauru and Manus Island.
Former Australian Greens leader Christine Milne responded saying the Coalition was acting “blind and deaf” to Nauru.
Other
high-profile advocates, including Network Ten’s Paul Bongiorno and
Crikey’s Bernard Keane, drew a similar connection between the two
issues.
Speaking on ABC’s Q & A last night, the President of
the Australian Human Rights Commission, Gillian Triggs, said the
conditions were worse than she had seen in asylum-seeker detention
centres.
“My response is very likely to be that of so many
Australians who will have watched this program – absolute horror at
watching the treatment of these children and to know this is done in the
name of Australia,
“If one of us were to have been found to have
treated our children in this way we would probably be charged with a
criminal offence and the children taken away from us,” she said.
“It’s
an extremely distressing piece of footage to look at and I have visited
many detention centres, sadly, I have never seen conditions of that
kind and I have never seen people treated in that way.”

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