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Dustin's story

As a child, Dustin was ‘always getting into trouble’. He was expelled from primary school and had trouble reading and writing because he couldn’t ‘sit still long enough’. Diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, he took medication for some years but said they didn’t work. ‘It actually turned me into an animal really. It turned me worse, made me worse. I had to leave the medication and handle it by myself.’

When his behaviour became too much for his mother to handle, Dustin was put into foster care. He moved between different group and individual homes until the late 1990s when, at 14, he was placed in a Melbourne home where there were several other children being looked after by a man and a woman. On several occasions while Dustin was in the house, the man tried to get him to touch his genitals.

‘I was just in there for about a week or so and then the gentleman there you know, he goes, “Oh listen, do you want to go in the room and that? You can watch the TV and stuff in here”, and he started giving me money and shit and then you know he wanted you to do some sexual acts. I said, “No, I don’t feel comfortable doing shit like that”. Then I thought about it a little bit and then in the end I ended up smashing the house up and they got rid of me.’

Afterwards Dustin was sent to a house for ‘troublesome kids’, which he said was ‘even worse’. ‘I didn’t get sexually assaulted there but after that happened it went right downhill.’

For the remainder of his adolescence and into adulthood, Dustin was sent to different juvenile justice centres and jails for a variety of offences. He spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he was serving a four and a half year sentence for armed robbery.

‘First it was car theft and that; there was a couple of car thefts and then I went and my crime went from car theft, now I’m convicted of armed robbery. Look what happened. Now I’ve escalated to things because I don’t know how to deal with shit no more.’

He thought the longest consecutive time he’d spent outside institutions was about six months.

‘I look at jail like, I don’t know, it’s institutionalised but this is my space, you know what I mean? Like out there, like I tried to put my trust in the shit and look what happened, you know what I mean?’

Dustin has done some courses while in jail and found them helpful, particularly ones focused on drug and alcohol use. ‘I’m waiting to do a violence course but I’ve got an acquired brain injury so I can’t’, Dustin said. ‘Just through abuse and fucking car accidents and shit like that … I’ve just got bad anxiety and depression.’

He said he’d found out he had an acquired brain injury at the time of his last sentencing. ‘My lawyer paid for someone to come in and see me and assess me and they said I’ve got an acquired brain injury. It sort of opens up new things for when I get out like, I don’t know, I’ll be able to get housing and stuff like that. I find it so hard to get housing now.’

Dustin said he spoke to his mother on the telephone every week and she remained his only support, but he couldn’t live with her. ‘It’s too hard, like her boyfriend and that, in the past he used to bash me a bit you know when I was a kid and she’d say, “I can’t cop it”, you know what I mean? I got abused when I was in foster care and then I get abused when I’m living with my mum so it’s fucking hard, you know what I mean?’

In the early 2010s, Dustin attempted to make a civil claim against the government of Victoria but was told he wasn’t able to because he’d never been made a ward of the state.

In jail, Dustin was in a single cell, an arrangement he preferred to living in one of the cottages where he’d been before and ‘didn’t last very long’.

‘I didn’t like it’, he said. ‘I didn’t like the cottage thing where like it sort of reminded me like I was at home. Okay I’ve been convicted of a crime. I want to do my jail and then learn by it and then go home. I’m not here for a holiday.’

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