Emir grew up the eldest child in a Middle-Eastern household. Although his father ‘got locked up’ when he was 10, Emir’s home and early school life were relatively stable. Once he reached high school in the 2000s, however, he had difficulty with some of his subjects and was expelled for misbehaving.
‘I kept getting suspended. For example, I didn’t know how to do maths properly. And then the teacher would get angry with me and say “Go to the principal’s office”. And I’d say “I don’t know how to do maths. You’re embarrassing me” … and things like that. And then I get suspended, suspended, suspended and then expelled.’
Without school to occupy him, Emir spent his days ‘on the streets ... hanging out with my mates, hanging out with girls that used to gee with us, do stupid things, smoke pot … and we had no one to look up to. Like we had our families but we didn’t want our families to know what we used to do’.
At the age of 14, after a succession of ‘stealing cars, doing stupid things’, Emir was sent to a juvenile justice facility in the state. In the facility, it was commonplace for a particular female officer to approach young inmates who were doing something wrong and, instead of admonishing them, she would sexually abuse them.
‘She would do things, like sexual favours. Like say, for example, we had smokes and she would know we had smokes, and she would say, “I know you got smokes ... Let’s come into the games room”. And we would go into the games room and she would start doing, you know, sexual things. At the time I didn’t care. I was like one of those young blokes that thought it was mad. You know, like “Yeah, I’ve got this officer doing this with me” and that.’
Emir told the Commissioner that one of the supervisors, Anthony, would often watch the sexual abuse, but never reported it. ‘At the back of the unit there was no cameras there … He used to come out the back, perve on us at the windows.’
Anthony would also ‘perve on us when us boys were in the showers … We complained, nothing happened … Everyone knew that that Anthony guy used to perve and that. They never said nothing, I reckon ’cause he was like a supervisor’.
Over the years Emir would spend time in detention and be released, only to be detained again after committing more crimes. At 16, at a different detention centre, he was interviewed by an employee conducting an external review and asked about his interactions with the female officer who abused him. By this time, Emir was deeply cynical about authority figures and refused to co-operate.
‘He just wanted to know information but I wouldn’t tell him … He asked me “What happens in institutions?” and all this … I just walked out … I don’t really know if he knew but he was asking questions as if he wanted me to answer those in the way he wanted me to answer them.
‘The world is fucked up … A lot of people are fake. Doesn’t matter how good they look, how nice they dress, or what they are or what rank they hold.’
As an adult, Emir has spent time in and out of prison. He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder and marijuana dependency. He has received counselling in prison but is cynical and believes ‘that’s all bullshit’. Instead he would like to see ‘someone from my own cultural background come in. You know, someone that’s respected outside to come talk to us whilst we’re in jail … Someone that knows what he’s talking about’.
Emir also believes that expelling children from school leads to antisocial behaviour and subsequent detention, making them more vulnerable to abuse. ‘The principal’s responsible of what happened to me and to all the other kids that she expelled. Those kids, most of them that I know, they’re all locked up.’
When reflecting on the abuse he experienced in juvenile detention, Emir now realises it was wrong and he feels angry that it happened to him.
‘I blame her for not being responsible … At the time I thought it was something normal. I thought it was like thumbs up, you know what I mean. But in the long run when you think about it, you think like if I had a son and my son was in juvie and a officer did that with my son, a female officer, I was dirty. I’d wanna go there and chop her head off.
‘These people, they work for the system under the government. They act like they’re all good. They don’t have the criminal records or this and they work for the system and they get away with things. Now why should they get away with things when no one else does?
‘When we used to do it back then we used to have laughs about it. We used to think we’re like heroes, you know. “Oh yeah, we just done this”, you know what I mean? And then we’d go into the rec room and talk about it, you know. Like back then it was just a joke. But now, you think of it now … Maybe it’s time for me to say something. If I say something then maybe that one day those institutions can get better for those boys.’