Australian teen abused in detention speaks out

A youth detainee being forcibly stripped by prison guards Image copyright ABC
Image caption A youth detainee being forcibly stripped by prison guards

A teenager who has become the face of a juvenile detention scandal has thanked Australians for their support.

Images of Dylan Voller cuffed to a mechanical restraint chair drew widespread condemnation after they were aired on television.

Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull on Tuesday convened a royal commission to examine treatment of juvenile inmates in the Northern Territory.

In a public letter, Voller said he wanted to make up for his past actions.

"I would just like to thank the whole Australian community for the support you have showed for us boys as well as our families," Voller wrote.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise to the community for my wrongs and I can't wait to get out and make up for them."

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Media captionPhil Mercer reports: "These images give a shocking insight into the treatment of teenagers jailed in one of the wealthiest countries in the world"

The chair

The Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s Four Corners programme this week showed footage of teenage offenders stripped naked, assaulted and tear gassed at the Northern Territory's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre.

Voller, who has been convicted of crimes including car theft, robbery and assault, was targeted in a number of incidents.

One of the guards who worked at the juvenile detention centre revealed that Voller had been placed in the restraint chair on multiple occasions.

"I know of three times he was in the restraint chair," said youth detention guard Ben Kelleher.

"Dylan was never so still, he was never so sheepish as he was when he was in that chair. I think he had admitted defeat when it happened.

"I turned up for one shift and Dylan was in the chair and the other two times they were on incident reports I read once I got to work," he said.

What the program showed

Image copyright ABC
Image caption Video shows a prison guard apparently hitting a juvenile detainee
  • Much of the program focused on treatment of Dylan Voller, who was assaulted, stripped naked and kept in solitary confinement between 2010 and 2012, when he was aged between 13 and 14.
  • At one stage Voller was strapped to a restraint chair while wearing a hood for almost two hours
  • Voller was also among a group of six children who were tear gassed at the Don Dale centre in 2014
  • The Northern Territory corrections system has reportedly been plagued by accusations of mistreatment of offenders and a run of escapes from custody

Image copyright Peter O'Brien

'I can't wait to get out'

In the letter released by his lawyers, Voller also thanked Four Corners for "helping to get the truth out there".

He is eligible for release in August. It will be the first time he has experienced freedom as an adult.

His lawyer called for the young man's immediate release and said his client was "scared for his safety".

The prime minister has refused to widen the scope of the proposed royal commission beyond the Northern Territory, despite pressure from Indigenous groups to do so.

Image copyright ABC

Youth detention rates are three times higher in the Northern Territory than elsewhere in Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Although the institute does not break down Indigenous youth incarceration rates specifically for the Northern Territory, young Indigenous people across Australia are 26 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous youth.

The Northern Territory's attorney-general, John Elferink, has been stripped of his corrections portfolio in the wake of the scandal.

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