Horrific stories emerge from notorious detention centre as prisoner describes the sexually abusive ‘welcome’ he received from a guard as a teen
- Former detainee sexually assaulted at Tasmanian detention centre at age 14
- Brett Robinson said he was abused by staff at the Ashley Youth Detention Centre
- He told a commission of inquiry he was ordered to ‘take your shorts off’
- The state government in September announced the centre would close by 2024
A former detainee at Tasmania’s troubled Ashley Youth Detention Centre said he was searched naked, hog-tied and constantly belittled by staff at the facility shortly after he arrived as a 14-year-old.
‘I got down to my boxers and I went to pick my clothes up. He said “no you need to take your shorts off”,’ Brett Robinson told a commission of inquiry into child sexual abuse in state public institutions.
‘I pretended I didn’t hear him. He slammed me to the ground (and) pretty much ripped my shorts off me.
‘He said to me “you’re not listening”. He ran his finger basically between my butt cheeks and inserted a finger in, and said “welcome to Ashley, you do as you’re told”.’
Mr Robinson, who gave evidence via videolink from Risdon Prison, said he was continually belittled by centre staff, called a ‘drug baby’ and was hog-tied for not going back to his room quickly enough.
‘They handcuffed my hands behind my back … handcuffed my ankles together and then handcuffed my ankles to my hands so that I was practically hog-tied,’ he said.
‘They’re called control cuffs. When they’re put on they can grab the middle of the cuff and basically turn it … it feels like it’s going to snap your wrist off.’
Brett Robinson speaking at the inquiry via videolink from prison
Following abuse allegations levelled at centre staff, the state government in September announced the centre would close by 2024 and be replaced by two therapeutic facilities.
The government has insisted all current detainees are safe.
Mr Robinson said he was taken to the centre after being caught stealing money so he could buy a plane ticket to leave Tasmania.
He entered the state’s out-of-home care system against his wishes in his early teens following an argument with his father.
He said he was sexually abused in one care placement, moved around the state to various homes, and slept on the street and in cars because they were better options.
Ashley Detention Centre will be shut down in 2024
Mr Robinson had early-onset bipolar disorder and was prone to arguments with his father, but said that was with whom he felt safe.
He spent weeks in isolation in detention and was sent to a group home after being released, turning to drugs and alcohol.
‘If anything does come out of (the inquiry) … just flood the place full of cameras,’ he said.
‘It’s wrong. It’s destroyed my life and it’s destroyed many other lives I know.’
Michael Pervan, Secretary of the Department of Communities which is responsible for out-of-home care, said he hoped Mr Robinson’s case would be handled differently today.
‘(We’d want) someone to recognise the mental health and social issues that were occurring in that family and to support them,’ he said.
‘I’d like to think that if he came to light now, his experience of our system would be entirely different.
‘He would still be with his family. He would not have gone into the choices he made or fell into.’
Another survivor, Azra Beach, told the inquiry earlier this week her foster mother broke her arm and she was sexually abused by two men known to the family.
‘We are so terribly sorry our system failed those people. I am so sorry that we were not there for you,’ Mr Pervan said.
On average, one child sexual abuse allegation is made per week within Tasmania’s out-of-home care system.
The inquiry will hold further public hearings in coming months ahead of delivering a final report by May 2023.
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