The boy at the centre of the Don Dale abuses that triggered a royal commission into the protection and detention of children in the NT spent the bulk of last weekend in a watch house on the Gold Coast after being arrested by Queensland police for entering a restricted area.
Dylan Voller, now aged 20, was on the Gold Coast with his mother Joanne taking part in the “Stolenwealth Games” demonstrations against the 2018 Commonwealth Games. His arrest on Saturday morning in Currumbin, a suburb about 25km south of the main section of the Gold Coast strip, came after a car he was travelling in was diverted by police onto a detour that passed through a designated Major Events Area (MEA). Bail conditions stemming from an arrest outside the opening ceremony of the Games 11 days earlier prevented Voller from entering these areas, commonly referred to as “yellow zones”.
Also arrested for the same offence was Ruby Wharton, 21, a key organiser within the Stolenwealth Games protest group. Video footage taken by Voller from inside the car suggests that the pair and a third passenger were headed to the southern end of the Gold Coast away, from the main games precincts, on a trip unrelated to a protest demonstration. Both were taken to nearby Palm Beach police station and held in custody to face the Southport Magistrate’s court on Monday morning.
It was Voller’s third arrest over the Games period and followed charges for the same offence on the morning of Friday 13, after the Stolenwealth Games group protested below a live beachside broadcast of the Sunrise television program. Police arrested an additional four activists involved in that morning’s demonstrations on charges of obstructing police and contravening a direction when they attempted to march through the nearby Broadbeach mall.
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An official media statement from Queensland police that was released later in the morning said one of the five men arrested attempted to harm himself in the back of the police van on the way to the Southport Watch House, but was prevented him from doing so and transported to hospital. Protestors had already confirmed that the man police referred to in their 11:09 am statement was Dylan Voller, after being alerted to the incident by a tweet from Seven News journalist Robert Ovadia, which said that an Aboriginal protester had tried to hang himself.
Protesters said that Voller’s mother was initially not permitted access to see her son during his hospitalisation. Voller was later released from police custody but to date has not provided a public statement.
Within hours of Saturday’s arrests in Currumbin, police and Gold Coast city officials moved to shut down the protest camp, located within parkland 10km north of Surfers Paradise. Live video posted to Facebook shows health and hygiene inspectors informing some protesters that the site had to be vacated within an hour. The same footage shows one official saying that child protection agents would also be attending for an inspection of conditions within the camp.
One protester reported a tense stand off between the inspectors and protest camp leaders that lasted nearly two hours, with one elderly lady strip searched by police.
Later, a group of the protestors holding valid tickets to attend the closing ceremony were delayed entry to Carrara stadium for over two hours as police performed multiple security checks that involved repeated pat-downs and the removal and confiscation of items of clothing deemed offensive.
The Stolenwealth Games group say they consisted of First Nations communities, groups and organisations from around the continent who had come together to protest the 2018 Games to draw attention to the issues that continue to impact Indigenous people in Australia today.