9 Aug 2016

'I really feel like I failed him by ringing the police'

12:41 pm on 9 August 2016

The mother of Australian teenager Dylan Voller believes she "failed" her son when she reported him to police, beginning a childhood of imprisonment which eventually led to him being strapped to a chair with a spitting hood over his head.

Dylan, who is at the centre of a scandal involving the Don Dale Juvenile Detention Centre, had been difficult from an early age, Joanne Voller told ABC programme 7.30.

A still from the ABC Four Corners investigative report.

Dylan Voller was shackled to a chair and had a hood put over his head. Photo: ABC

Alice Springs primary schools were unable to deal with him and he attended at least five different schools between the ages of six and nine.

Joanne Voller said she contacted the NT Department of Children and Families for help when Dylan was 11.

"That was the time when he broke my window and I was told if I reported him for breaking my window he'd get the help that he needed," she said.

"At the time he needed counselling to help with his anger issues, but it's not what he received in jail.

"I was seeking help, I was asking for help. I in no way thought he would be hooded and chained to a chair or thrown in isolation for 200 days at a time.

"I don't see that as counselling or helping him.

"I really feel like I failed him by ringing the police that day when he broke my window, to be honest."

'They don't see the underlying problems'

Dylan's family said he had emotional problems which should have been dealt with.

"Something happened in Dylan's life that made him really angry that he didn't talk about until he was older," Joanne Voller said.

According to his sister, Kirra Voller, Dylan grew up not trusting people.

"I think that's where his naughtiness comes in because it's a lack of trust for the people that he's supposed to trust, so they just think he's rebelling and being a naughty person because of whatever reasons - he's got ADHD or he's troubled - they don't see the underlying problems that are really affecting him," she said.

Antoinette Carroll, a youth justice advocate and Dylan's case worker, agreed Dylan had not received the care he needed.

"As soon as he entered into early childhood his needs had to be identified," she said.

"His mother was very proactive in trying to get therapeutic supports in place, which is why she contacted the department.

'Pretty much his whole childhood he's spent in jail'

Dylan is now in an adult prison in Darwin serving time for a serious assault.

"I'd say out of the last seven years he's probably been out six, seven, eight months since [age] 12, so pretty much his whole childhood he's spent in jail," Joanne Voller said.

Dylan's lawyers have petitioned the Northern Territory Administrator to exercise his prerogative of mercy and grant Dylan an early release.

"He's really trying not to get his hopes up about getting out," Kirra Voller said.

"He really wants to get out, he deserves to get out because of everything he's been through. I think he's entitled to that at least."

Ms Carroll said that without intensive therapy for Dylan, she does not know what his future might hold.

"I'd like to think that it will be bright and it will be wonderful but gee, it's a lot of long-term abuse and early childhood abuse to recover from," Ms Carroll said.

"Dylan knows he's got a lot of love in his life, lot of family support, community support, but at the end of the day hopefully that will carry him through."

Cost of intervention versus cost of incarceration

Ms Carroll said the lack of a "systemic collaborative approach" for Dylan and his family had been a failing.

"Looking at his challenging behaviours, getting a full diagnosis of exactly what Dylan was presenting with, if it was ADHD or early childhood trauma - there's a whole raft of reports that have now been presented before the courts," Ms Carroll said.

"But the lack of a systemic collaborative approach for him and his family really was a failing.

"These were issues that were long identified through the schooling system and through the courts.

"Endless court reports were presented on his behalf from services to say this is what should happen, clearly outlining a good post-release plan, but again that needed resourcing.

"Sadly when he was in the care of the Department of Children and Families they wouldn't come to that, which was extraordinary because the cost was quite expensive but this was ongoing 24/7 support to the family - very cost effective in the long term, when we see the lengthy incarceration cost that Dylan Voller has gone through."

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