Dylan Voller’s abuse in an Australian juvenile detention facility shocked the world – now he wants a career in politics
Voller was among six boys who were tear-gassed in their cells in August 2014. Four of the others were recently awarded compensation over other aspects of their treatment during the incident
Dylan Voller, the former juvenile detainee at the centre of the Northern Territory youth justice crisis, intends to stand for election to the Alice Springs town council.
Voller said he wanted to use his experiences to provide a voice for young people in the central desert town, and although he didn’t have any specific policies, he would consult community members and would advocate on youth justice.
“I’ve got a pretty good insight into that sort of stuff so I want to be able to work with the kids and with their families and communicate with the council to be able to take their concerns up to people to listen,” he told the ABC.
Voller was among six boys who were tear-gassed in their cells in August 2014. Four of the others were recently awarded compensation over other aspects of their treatment during the incident.
The royal commission heard of the difficulty staff had in dealing with a young Voller, about his mistreatment by guards, and the repeated use of restraints, spithoods, and the restraint chair – now outlawed for use against juveniles.
The 19-year-old has spent much of his childhood in and out of juvenile and adult detention facilities in both Darwin and Alice Springs. He has been out of detention for the past five months, his longest period of freedom since he first entered detention at the age of 11.
In February he was released on bail to the rehabilitation programme Bush Mob. His eight-month sentence for recklessly endangering the safety of a police officer was due to end in October but was suspended in June.
Voller was 16 when he committed three crimes which he pleaded guilty to in 2014. The first two sentences – for attempted robbery and aggravated robbery – had been served when he was granted bail.
He has become a prominent figure since his release, giving regular media interviews and advocating for improvements in youth justice alongside members of his family and supporters.
Voller also regularly dives into local community social media pages, where he faces frequent criticism over his previous behaviour and crimes against people in Alice Springs. He has also faced questions over a photograph on Facebook of him in a car with an apparent replica handgun next to him.
Jacinta Price, a town councillor and vocal anti-domestic violence advocate, said she was “all for” people having a chance to improve themselves after making mistakes, but questioned the advice Voller was receiving. She said he had good intentions but it was “premature” to take on a leadership role.
“It concerns me that there are individuals and media who are glorifying a young man who has previously committed very serious crimes based on the fact he was subject to abuse himself,” she said.
“Two wrongs do not make a right and Dylan has not demonstrated the ability to earn the forgiveness and respect of a lot of the community because of his past criminal behaviours.
“He should continue his rehabilitation, maintain his current employment and consider running in another few terms while he has developed his life skills.
“If he really wants to find solutions to the problems facing youth then he should consider working in the area and start with small steps instead of throwing himself into the deep end.”
The Alice Springs mayor, Damien Ryan, said he encouraged everyone to run for council but would not comment on individual prospective candidates until the rolls closed.