- Nadene Dodd says authorities failed in their duty of care
- She said Cleveland “loved life more than anything”
- Their family reiterated calls to shut down Unit 18
Through the unimaginable grief of losing her 16-year-old son, Nadene Dodd has broken her silence.
“They just failed his duty of care,” she said quietly, just above a whisper, the weight of the last few weeks heavy in her voice.
“They never helped him when he needed help.”
A devastating phone call
Exactly 14 days ago today, she received a phone call with two surprises.
The first: her son was being held in the notorious Unit 18 – an adult prison unit rapidly turned into a youth detention facility in an act of desperation.
The second: he had tried to take his own life in his cell, before being revived and rushed to hospital.
“Words can’t explain the feelings that I was going through at the time, as a mother, for Cleveland,” was all she could muster when asked about the moment she answered that call.
For the week that followed, she was surrounded by family from across the state who rallied around Cleveland as he lay in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, kept alive by machines, more than a 10-hour drive from his hometown.
“He grew up in Laverton,” Ms Dodd recalled.
“He loved a lot of things. Loved school, basketball and going to the drop-in centre.
“He loved life more than anything.”
But after seven days in which questions swirled around what happened to him, and how long it took guards to find him, his condition hadn’t improved.
He passed after his life support was switched off as midnight neared on Thursday last week.
Commissioner stood down
His final breath marked the state’s first death in youth detention since records began in 1980 and has prompted a week of grief and anger.
Yesterday, the government announced its first concrete change as a result – removing the commissioner of Corrective Services from his position and replacing him with Assistant Police Commissioner Brad Royce.
Christine Ginbey, the deputy commissioner directly responsible for Banksia Hill Detention Centre and its hardened sibling in Unit 18, was also relieved of responsibility for youth justice, to focus instead on women’s prisons.
A new, yet-to-be-appointed person will have sole responsibility for young people.
“We have not achieved advances in Unit 18 to my expectations and my desires,” Corrective Services Minister Paul Papalia explained yesterday.
“And what we’ve done is a reset.”
Advocate calls for more accountability
But advocate Megan Krakouer, who had been supporting Cleveland’s family, said it wasn’t enough.
She sat beside Ms Dodd as they spoke to the ABC, both wearing shirts that bear his image and the words “Close Unit 18!” and “Justice for Cleveland Dodd” on the back.
Ms Krakouer said Adam Tomison – the Department of Justice’s director general since late 2016 – needed to move on as well.
She also pointed to dozens of letters sent by the Aboriginal Legal Service raising concerns about conditions in detention, including one sent about Cleveland two weeks before he took his life, which had been addressed to Ms Ginbey.
“Those that opened those letters, those that had responsibility to work through those issues and ensure that the children were safe, those middle management, they need to be held accountable,” Ms Krakouer said.
“This tragedy could have been avoided. We have warned time and time and time again.
“The West Australian government is not listening and sadly, and tragically, Cleveland’s not here.”
She said more practical changes were needed too, including extending Medicare into prisons to give those behind bars greater access to medical care, and involving the families of young people kept in Unit 18 in their care.
The government insists a suite of changes are underway, including “multidisciplinary teams including mentors, Aboriginal officers, psychologists, mental health and other health services … working to assist the rehabilitation and reintegration journey of young people.”
‘We want it shut down’
Hundreds gathered in Forrest Place in Perth’s CBD on Wednesday evening calling for justice for Cleveland.
His grandmother Glenda Mippy, who was among the many of Cleveland’s family members who have travelled to Perth from across the state, reiterated her call for Unit 18 to be shut down immediately.
“We want to see it closed down ‘cos it took our grandson’s life, look at his family all here, misses him, he should be here with them,” Ms Mippy said.
“We want it shut down, it took his life, he shouldn’t have been there.”
Premier Roger Cook and Mr Papalia insist they want to see Unit 18 close but say further changes at Banksia Hill are needed first, and won’t commit to a timeline for that to happen.
Family faces long wait for answers
Clear answers about what happened to Cleveland, both before and after he took his own life, could still be some time away.
So too could any compensation, which Ms Krakouer flagged Cleveland’s family would be seeking for what he, and now they, had endured.
The department is running its own investigation, on top of a coronial inquiry and a Corruption and Crime Commission probe.
But his family are unwavering in their pursuit of the truth.
Cleveland’s grandmothers last week pledged to stay in Perth until they achieved justice for the 16-year-old.
His grieving mother wants the same.
“I just want answers, what happened to Cleveland. Justice,” she said.