Dylan’s case shocked the nation after an investigative report showed the mistreatment and abuse of young offenders at the Don Dale youth detention centre.
The teen inmate was the focus of the Northern Territory's Royal Commission into juvenile justice and is now set to be released from prison to begin a rehabilitation program.
Kirra Voller is the sister of Dylan, and she says her brothers systematic and horrific abuse at the hands of staff in Don Dale juvenile detention is failing the next generation. Kirra has now taken to social media to share her powerful open letter to NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner
VOLLER'S OPEN LETTER TO MICHAEL GUNNER:
"Dear Michael Gunner
My name is Kirra voller and I know I don't need to explain who I am as you already know my brother Dylan Voller who has been let down countless times by your flawed system. I am writing to you because I don't think you can quiet see for yourselves being so high up in your positions, that you are failing the next generation!
They might not be the next generation of children that are in your fancy schools that have part time jobs or savings accounts full of money ready to go for their future, no, but they are still part of the next generation. Their roads have just been bumpier. They've been lost, somehow, someway, it doesn't matter the reasons, but majority of them fall back on your system.
These children include children who you've removed from their parents. Some go to good loving homes and succeed, but that's only a small percentage. So many others I see wandering around the streets of Alice Springs hanging out in large groups with nothing to do. Everyone just assumes they're waiting to break in or make trouble.
Where's their chance to grow? To succeed and have the opportunity to work and make a life for themselves? These kids need love and guidance. They need someone who won't give up on them!
instead of sitting back blaming their parents without understanding their circumstances, help their parents, let's help get their children home safe. Let's connect with people and other mothers and fathers.
If my mother had support rather than judgment the story would be a lot different.
Here are two examples for you to consider. One is when I was 13 years old. I was dying to go to a party and my mum tried her hardest to keep me inside. She locked all the doors and took the keys and went to bed. I got angry and kicked the back door out. I'm ashamed of this, but it happened. My mum was at her wits end with no father in the house to pull me into line. I was much bigger than her by this age, so she called the police hoping they would come and scare me into staying home. I remember her threatening me, “that's it, I called the police they'll tell you 13 year olds aren't allowed to walk the streets”.
So the police got there and told my mother that if she didn't unlock the doors and let me out, I could charge her with deprivation of liberty! Imagine that, me a 13 year old charging my mother for locking me inside from the world from drugs and alcohol and partying, and there were the police, policing and telling me I could go! Can you imagine the power I had over my mother after that? There was another time when they told my brother if she ever smacked him he could charge her with assault or child abuse.
Second example. I was in town the other night around 11pm. I saw a lady and her friend and then two kids, a girl and a boy, running around taking the piss out of their mother and running off. I called out to the mother, “hey are you chasing that little boy?” and offered to drive to help her find him.
When we did find him and made him get in the car, the girl jumped out, because her friends were down the road waiting. The little brother wanted to be just like his sister, so the sister ends up taking off. I took the boy to the shop and make a deal with him that if he stays home with his mum, I'll get him something, that worked out and then we continued to look for his sister who was in the carpark with her friends. Her mum was crying and begging her to come home. The 12 year old girl was crying because she wanted to go home too, but I'm guessing she didn't want to look like she wasn't cool in front of her friends. It was an ego thing - I get it cos I did it!
Now, imagine if there were a centre these kids who are on the streets had to be in, with buses to take them home, 200 beds in case they just don't feel like going home. They could call up their parents to tell them they aren't coming home, or their parents can come down and see that they are safe. There could be workers there who care about these kids and their futures. I can see crime rates dropping, the amount of young people getting jobs rising, and I can see hope for the future.
If you continue to lock these children away for petty crimes like stealing clothes or materialistic possessions or breaking a window, then you are potentially destroying their lives, creating criminals and instilling in their minds that that's all they can be.
I’m particularly concerned about children being removed from their families for behavioural issues. Once this happens, soon they get criminal records, rather than building on the strengths and love of their parents, they just face a system that doubts them and sees them as a “problem”. To any child it makes them feel like a failure! In all areas in all circumstances these children and young people need hope and praise even when they fail, even when they mess up, even when they might not deserve your respect, you need to give it to them. One day they will respect you for your resilience and refusal to give up on them. In turn, they will learn to respect themselves and everyone around them !
As a mother I know we struggle as parents and often feel there is an image to uphold. I was a young mother so straight away I was being watched. I knew if I fed my daughter and kept her looking healthy and in clean clothes I wouldn't be looked at twice from the system - which then denied me access to vital services that many young people need when they're lost!
If instead of judging me for the simple fact I was a young mother and instead helping more to guide me, I can only imagine how much earlier I would've gotten a job and got my own place!
The system should be there to first support the families and help them with whatever their needs may be, reconnecting the family, helping to heal any problems within the family and ultimately building them up to work together rather than tearing them apart!
After you've built these centres, it would be much easier to establish the reasons behind why kids are walking the streets, why kids are breaking in and stealing things, why kids are being sent to juvenile detention centres, why they're being removed from their homes and then committing crimes.
These are your children you need to take responsibility for them. You removed them from people who care and love them and now that's your responsibility. You basically put your hand up and said you could do a better job and help to better that child's life.
I have seen your announcement about new funding for programs for youth who have committed crimes. This is a good start, so many of these programs have suffered cuts over the years. But there needs to be so much more. There needs to be opportunities for children before they get into a cycle of offending. There needs to be an end to the approach of judgement and punishment. There should not be youth prisons at all!
With things like the centres I’ve suggested, once you've established good strong connections with the youth then you can talk to them and hear them only then can you stop the crime rate rising and the youth incarceration rate rising. With support workers who have gained these kids trust through these new centres with a wide range of activities and pathways to success, you can establish a connection with a child. They could possibly just be rebelling against their parents? They might have an abusive father and they don’t like being in the home? Perhaps their parents are too strict? Or they are a kid who just wants to be like his big brother and walk around after dark, a kid who needs help but doesn't know where to get it. Your response to this can not be to bring in more police and harsher sentences! It's not working Mr Gunner!"