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Albert Edwin's story

Albert was placed in care in the mid 1950s, when he was about six months old. He and his older sister spent time in two children’s homes before they were sent to a foster home, where they were physically abused.

‘My dad didn’t want to split us up … My sister spoke to my dad about being belted and all this stuff … The things I could tell you about this old witch.’

Because his sister complained about the treatment they received from their foster mother, the children were removed and sent to a children’s home. This was one of six homes Albert was sent to in Victoria, before he escaped from care at 14.

At a home run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Albert was beaten with straps and rods for small misdemeanours, and was forced to perform jobs that were too difficult for a small boy. As punishment, he was locked in a cupboard in the basement, with feral cats, which he found terrifying. If he wet the bed, the soiled sheets were placed over his head, and he would then be belted with a strap.

When he was about 11, Albert was sent to a boys’ home run by the Salvation Army. ‘That was worse than where I was … First day there, I wasn’t even there 24 hours and I was in a fight. It was just hell from there on.’

Albert told the Commissioner that he ran away from the home a few times, but was always caught by the police and brought back. ‘No one really cared what happened. It was just like a jail. You fought for everything you done. If you didn’t look after yourself, you were pushed aside … It was just like that.’

Albert was sexually abused at the home by two older boys. ‘The older kids tried to rape me on many occasions. I knew nothing about sex in those days … They would tell me to come with them, so I would go with them because I had no choice … There would be just the one boy at a time that would try to rape me.

‘They would try to insert their penis into me. I remember on two occasions that the two different boys did insert their penis. Other people tried, but I fought them away … The two boys were both much older than me. I was not strong enough to belt them, and I had no friends or family there to support me.’

Albert was continually physically and verbally abused while he was at the home. ‘It went on for all the time that I was there. I was constantly looking over my shoulder wondering what the boys were going to do to me next.’ After a while, he started fighting back, ‘and they sort of backed off’.

Someone must have told the major in charge of the home about the sexual abuse, because Albert was called into his office. ‘He talked to me about the birds and the bees, and asked about what was going on. I talked about what was going on. I told him the names of the boys that abused me.’ By this time, the boys had left that section of the home, and Albert never saw them again.

When Albert was 14, his sister visited him at the home and gave him five pounds. She told him to use it to take a train to where their father was living. He did what she told him to, and he never returned to care. He stayed with his father for a short while, until he was able to get a job and fend for himself.

Albert told the Commissioner that when he was still young he ran into a Salvation Army officer trying to sell copies of their magazine, The War Cry, in a pub. He said to the officer, ‘What do you have to cry about? I’m the one who was in the war’.

Albert has tried counselling, but found it too distressing and he had to stop. ‘It sort of got the better of me.’ Because he is seeking legal advice regarding compensation for the sexual abuse he experienced as a child, he is due to see a psychologist for evaluation.

Although Albert was initially reluctant to come forward to the Royal Commission, after he spoke to a worker from a support organisation, he changed his mind. ‘So many stories out there … and stories have to be told somewhere. The sooner the world listens, the better.’

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