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Aidan Marcus's story

Aidan’s dad was a violent alcoholic and his mum a ‘pretend Christian’, and they lived together off and on during his childhood. Although his mother is Aboriginal ‘I’ve never been able to reach out to that heritage of mine’. All of his mates as a child were white and ‘it wasn’t cool growing up to identify as Indigenous, and even if you did you were bullied big-time’.

In the early 1990s, at the age of 12, he was sent to a Christian Brothers boarding school in Queensland. He disliked school because he had ADHD and couldn’t keep still.

In Year 7, ‘I ran into a few little problems ... which turned me off school fully, and I guess into drugs’. One of the staff, Brother Gaston, ‘physically abused and sexually touched’ him on a number of occasions.

Aidan did not disclose this abuse at the time. He didn’t think his mum would believe him, and was afraid his dad may have ‘punched up half the school’ if he knew. ‘I didn’t want to be called a liar and I didn’t want my dad to get in trouble. I kept that to myself.’ Even when Aidan first contacted the Royal Commission he was unable to speak about what had happened. ‘I’ve never even brought this up in counselling sessions.’

His education suffered as a result of this abuse.

‘The school records would show that my behaviour took a bad turn drastically, and that would have been after the first run-in [with Brother Gaston].’

Soon he abandoned school altogether. ‘They tried to continue me in the school the next year, and that was when I think I left school and started injecting speed.’ He found that taking amphetamines would ‘slow me down and keep me on track ... It actually used to make me cope and adapt. Then I tried heroin a bit later on’.

At ‘first it was drugs and then the crime sort of fully started’. He ended up in a juvenile detention centre when he was 14, and was sexually abused by two staff members. One of the male guards would hit him and grab his genitals and backside.

A female nurse who worked at the centre would devise reasons for him to come into the clinic at odd hours of the night, and at these times she’d sexually abuse him. At the time he thought ‘I was cool, because I had the interest of an older woman’. In hindsight he recognises that she was committing an offence against an underage child.

The centre was also a physically and emotionally violent place, with staff often stripping the boys down and putting them in seclusion rooms for a day or two at a time.

Aidan has ‘felt alone ever since that time. The only people I could ever relate to were my two brothers’. Both his brothers also experienced abuse in institutions as children. One is deceased, and the other now has cognitive and mental health issues which mean ‘you can’t really relate to him anymore’. He and his brothers spoke about the abuse but ‘we kept it in-house between us three, whatever happened’.

Although he has known his wife for a long time he has not disclosed the sexual abuse to her ‘because I felt embarrassed, and less like a man I guess’.

With a lengthy criminal history of mostly property-related offences, Aidan is currently in prison.

‘Being in this jail I’m in now you’re around a lot of sex offenders and mentally it does my head in to have to even be in the same vicinity as them.’

While in custody he has tried to study, but having been told how useless he was when younger he is always doubting himself. Even when he is going well ‘I always self-sabotage’.

Aidan is due to be released from prison soon. This concerns him as he finds it hard to function well in society and often relapses into heroin use if he does not have a structured lifestyle.

‘I’ve been telling myself for years I won’t ever come back to it. I don’t know what it is. There’s something. I’ve had counselling through jail ... I’ve asked for help with psychologists, and they’ve always told me the same thing – “We don’t have the funds to help you”. I know that I’ve got bad anxiety problems stemming from my youth ... I’ve got a supportive partner and beautiful kids but ...

‘I know what I want in life, but I can’t seem to grasp it. I can’t seem to function. Every time I start to do good I’ve reminded of my past, and I resort to heroin. The reason I turned to heroin, it actually is a blocker for everything. You don’t have a care in the world when you’re on that ... And I guess that’s the way I’ve dealt with my past. When I found it, it was like a lifesaver.’

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