‘No other young people will go through what I’ve been through’: Dylan Voller


Dylan Voller watched on as it was recommended the Don Dale Detention Centre was closed for good, after a photo of his own horrific treatment sparked a Royal Commission.

A boy restrained in a chair, a spit hood across his face, the guards speculating about whether to tear gas him - it's an image that sparked a Royal Commission to recommend Darwin's Don Dale Youth Detention Centre be closed.

It's also an image the boy pictured, Dylan Voller, will never forget. 

Mr Voller told SBS News he had a panic attack recently when hospital doctors asked to put a mask on his face. 

"It's still a memory that stays in my head, and it's going to stay there for a long time. It's quite a scary feeling," he said. 

But the footage of the Indigenous child being brutalised inside the Don Dale Detention Centre did lead to something positive - an inquiry into the treatment of youth in detention. 

On Friday, Commissioners Mick Gooda and Margaret White revealed what they called the “shocking and systemic failures” in the child protection system and the ways in which they planned to reform them.

The main recommendations from the $54 million inquiry include closing the detention centre and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 12 years. It also advocates that children under the age of 14 should only be detained for serious crimes.

Mr Voller, a former Don Dale youth detainee, watched on as the findings were made public. 

It's been years since the moment the confronting image was captured.

“I guess I look at that picture as [something] that made a difference - a picture that helped spark the Royal Commission. As much as I don't like seeing it, I also think there's a positive out of it - they've now banned restraint chairs and no other young people are going to be going through that situation that I've been through.”

He felt the most important recommendation was to close the detention centre.

“I feel happy about the recommendations that are coming out, but I'm not feeling 100 per cent positive that the Northern Territory government, that the Michael Gunner government, is going to implement them all,” he said.

Mr Voller said he got a tattoo, a time-piece with numbers missing, to represent the years lost in custody.

The Commissioners heard from 214 witnesses during the inquiry. There were stories of great despair, such as one from a young man who had just been moved from youth detention to an adult prison.

The Northern Territory's chief minister Michael Gunner has said no child will ever be treated so badly again, and he acknowledged that what happened will live as a stain on the state's reputation.

“I am sorry. I am sorry of the stories that will live on in those children who were in our care,” he declared.

Source SBS News

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch