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Family of Cleveland Dodd, who died in custody aged 16, speaks out

Giovanni Torre -

The family of Cleveland Dodd, the 16 year-old Indigenous boy who died in custody after being found in his cell at Unit 18, Casuarina prison, has issued a statement, published in full below.

"Our family is overwhelmed with grief as we come to terms with the unthinkable – the loss of our most beloved boy, who did not belong in that horrible place known as Unit 18. Our boy should have had been at home with his family who he loved, and who loved him dearly. Our boy deserved a future.

We want answers.

Our beloved boy had never, ever self-harmed prior to being unlawfully locked down, day after day, inside Unit 18, and drove him to take his own life in desperation, in the early hours of October 12, 2023.

We as a First Nations People have been suffering from one generation to another, and we cannot stand by and watch this carnage on our children. The Coronial Inquest into his death will take far too long to bring meaningful change, policy, and law reform. We his family and community, will not wait patiently in the wings, while legal processes run their course.

We will not rest until justice for our boy, and for all other First Nation's children, is secured.

To the State Government we say, act now, today, to prevent another young person from needlessly and tragically dying in detention. Future commitments, platitudes and unfulfilled promises only inflict more pain. Close Unit 18 without further delay – a maximum security adult prison is no place for children.

To all the children detained in Banksia Hill and Unit 18, we say stay strong, look out for one another.

Our beautiful boy is with the spirits of our ancestors, in their strength of our ancestors, he too rests with strength.

Our ancestors call to us to stand up for our children, the children of the sunrise, the children of beautiful beginnings they have been denied by recent generations."

Levitt Robinson Solicitors, who have been instructed to act for the family in the coronial inquest, said on Friday that "evidence of the foreseeability of the harm which West Australian Courts have already recognised will be caused to young people detained in Unit 18, located in Casuarina Prison, will be fully exposed" by the investigation.

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