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Adam Paul's story

‘Most of my adult life I’ve spent in jail due to what happened to me in welfare, because I’d been trying to hide or wipe out all those years through drug abuse and constant violence. For one little thing to happen, it’s pretty well fucked me up for my whole life.’

Adam was first put into care in the mid-1980s when he was about five years old. He spent the next few years shuttling around South Australia, visiting more boys’ homes and foster homes than he can remember. Some of these homes were state-run, some were Catholic; some were fun places where he got to swim and fish and play with other kids; some were ‘putrid’.

Worst of all was the home of foster parents Hugo and Gina Olsen. Adam was sent there when he was about 10. By this stage he was no stranger to abuse. The reason he’d been put into care in the first place was because his stepfather had been physically and sexually abusing him. So when Hugo began abusing him, Adam thought this was normal.

‘It was all like he was full-on grooming me. He made it seem like it was all normal and it was all right, nothing wrong with it. It wasn’t until later on in life that I realised that, like, it was wrong and it should never have happened.’

Eventually Adam was removed from the Olsens’ care. Days later, the Olsens moved overseas. Whether or not the police were on to them by then, Adam doesn’t know. The police are definitely on to them now though, he said. Adam spoke to an officer a few years ago and there’s now a warrant out for Hugo Olsen’s extradition and arrest.

From the Olsens’ place, Adam was sent to a group home for boys. He ended up spending time in several of these homes and in each one he found easy access to the thing he needed most: a way to forget.

‘Those places are so bad to bring a kid up in because everybody’s just doing drugs to try and forget what’s happened to them or erase some part of their life ... I’ve had very heavy drug use, like from 14 onwards I’ve been using needles and smoking pot and doing every other drug under the sun.’

To fund his drug habit Adam turned to crime, which soon led to jail. Now in his 30s, Adam has spent much of his life in jail. It always felt like home to him.

‘Sadly to say – and my partner’s heard me say this multiple times – I prefer to live in there. It’s a hell of a lot fucken easier. I get my bills, I get my smokes, they hand me everything on a golden platter. I get my drugs in and I can live a happy life down in jail. But I don’t want to do that anymore. I’m trying to stop that. That’s why I’m out on home detention right now.’

Adam has been out before and always reoffended. But things feel different this time. Towards the end of his last stint in jail he completed an anger management course that prompted a deep shift in his attitude.

‘I did this course and I haven’t hit anybody since I’ve done it. It taught me so much about myself … I’m 35 years old, I haven’t done anything good in my life. I’ve just been a fucken burden on society, really … Something’s gotta change. And when I did decide to change and I met my partner and that, my life’s been a hell of a lot better.’

Adam is now considering taking legal action against the South Australian Government and the Catholic Church.

‘I wasn’t originally wanting compensation when I first started doing this. I just wanted it out of the way. But since I’ve got a missus and kids and that, I thought: get some compensation, buy a house, set my life up with my family … It’s like I’ve taken all these steps to change and that compensation will get me my final step to being a homeowner and getting out of the rat race.’

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