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Voller shares story, applauded for bravery

AAP logoAAP 12/12/2016 Lucy Hughes Jones

When teen inmate Dylan Voller faced the Northern Territory's royal commission into youth detention, he was a different young man to the troubled and broken boy the juvenile justice system had once reduced him to.

Swapping his prison clothes for a suit and tie, the 19-year-old was eloquent and composed when he came out of an adult jail on Monday to speak publicly for the first time, giving evidence about difficult memories.

It was a far cry from the detainee with behavioural problems who was tear gassed, spit hooded and shackled to a restraint chair in the NT's youth prisons just a few years ago.

Voller received a round of applause and was thanked by co-commissioner Mick Gooda for his bravery in coming forward, despite fears of repercussions from prison guards while still in custody.

Voller painted a disturbing picture of mental and physical torment during his time as a child behind bars, claiming he was starved by guards, regularly strip-searched and forced to defecate into a pillowcase after being denied toilet breaks.

Voller was jailed in 2014 for a violent, ice-fuelled crime spree.

He was first placed in child protection at age 10 and has been in and out of youth detention since we was 11.

He told the court he was sorry for his long criminal history, which he produced to the commission voluntarily.

"I'm definitely not proud of it, and it's just humiliating and a lot of mistakes," he said.

He remembered growing up in "disgusting" residential foster care homes in Alice Springs that had cockroaches, little natural light and left him feeling trapped.

Older boys at the children's home introduced him to smoking marijuana and they began committing crimes together, the commission heard.

Voller said many case workers were disinterested and one told him his family didn't care about him.

"For a long time I started believing it," said an emotional Voller, whose family are supporting him at the commission.

Voller finished proper schooling at age 10 and said he wanted to learn, but admitted his ADHD made life hard for teachers.

"I couldn't control my behaviour with concentration," he said.

"I was sometimes too embarrassed to ask for help."

Voller admitted he regularly spat at youth justice officers in a state of panic when up to four of them were holding him down and hurting him.

"It was a disgusting thing that I did, I do regret it but it became a mechanism because... I was defenceless, I couldn't stand up and put them off me," he said.

"It was pretty much a game for them, restraining us. But as my institutional reports show, as maturity came I grew out of it and it stopped."

Voller read out a personal statement to the commission, demanding changes to youth detention and asking for rehabilitation instead of punishment.

"As a victim and young man I feel upset and let down by the system," he said.

He hopes by sharing his story the royal commission can bring change so no one has to experience the ordeals he did again.

"To all the young people that have been through the system or are still in the system, I hope you are free and can have a better life now," he said.

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