Colby Ian's story

Colby can’t explain why he got into so much trouble when he became a teenager in the 2000s. His upbringing, on the New South Wales coast, wasn’t a violent or deprived one. He was sent to a private school. ‘I had everything growing up.’ His parents divorced when he was 10 and he went to live with his grandparents.

In his early teens Colby started drinking heavily, smoking pot and breaking the law. When he was about 16 he was arrested on a break and enter charge and sent to his first juvenile detention centre. This place was not so bad, Colby said. But assaulting one of the officers there landed Colby in a correctional centre and this place was notorious.

Boys were brutally physically and sexually abused there. Colby can count at least 20 times when he was assaulted while he was in handcuffs. During a three-month stint in segregation, the four boys in his cell were regularly made to share one meal between them. At night, with no bed linen or towel, he was so cold he wanted to get underneath the plastic on his mattress. He had to wear the same singlet, shorts and undies for the entire three months.

One guard had a favourite punishment that he inflicted on Colby three times and on five other boys that he knows of. In segregation, when guards enter the cell ‘you have to get on your knees and put your hands on your head’. This guard then stripped Colby naked. ‘He had a glove on and he poked his finger in my arse and rammed my head into the wall.’

‘That place was just hell’, Colby said. ‘I don’t know how the place didn’t get shut down.’

Colby was there for two years. After the first year, things got better for him but new people ‘copped it’.

His family came to visit him but he didn’t tell them about the treatment he was getting. Many of his relatives are very religious and he knew it would upset them terribly. The only people he spoke to about the abuse were the other victims.

‘After I got out after that two years, my head was just … I just wasn’t the same. I’ve never been the same, you know? Straight out. That place just …’

Colby went straight from the correctional centre into adult prison. He’s spent most of his adult life in jail. He knows that his time in the correctional centre made him ‘a mess’ but he hasn’t had any counselling, in or out of prison. ‘I’ve pretty much just held it all in.’

Colby is determined to seek redress when he’s served his current sentence. He still remembers the names of the guards who abused him.

‘I’m never gonna let it go’, he told the Commissioner.

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