The only thing Alex can remember about his mother is the moment he crawled through a window and unlocked a door so that she could get her belongings and leave. ‘She was really scared of my father because he was involved in occult activity’, he remembers. ‘He used to abuse her fairly badly.’
From a young age Alex lived alone with his father. He told no one about the violence he suffered – ‘men didn’t talk about such things back then’. In his early teens he assaulted his father ‘in retaliation’. Instead of being asked why he was angry, he was charged with being ‘an uncontrollable child’ and made a ward of the state.
In the mid-1970s, Alex was placed in a government-run boys’ home in South Australia. After being physically abused by a worker, he smashed a window and escaped. He lived first with some ‘hippies’ who took him in, and then on a farm where he had work and lodgings. However, more than a year after he’d escaped, he was apprehended and sent to a government-run boarding home for children with behavioural problems.
The boarding house was managed by Hugh Connelly, a ‘fit’ man probably in his 40s. A school teacher, Paul Lawrence, warned Alex that Connelly was ‘dangerous’.
Not long after this warning, Connelly starting sexually abusing Alex in his bedroom. Alex ‘can remember every detail’ of the abuse, which happened ‘many times’ over a couple of years. He finds it ‘scary’ how the memories are still ‘locked in time’.
Talking about this during his private session with the Royal Commission made Alex overwhelmed, and he had to stop. His son Scott came as his support person and comforted him. Alex said:
‘I got nothing to be ashamed of, my son. I was a kid. It’s their fault not mine … That’s why I want to get rid of it.’
Alex reported Connelly to Lawrence, who not only sexually abused him as well but showed him some ‘unbelievable things’ involving a network of powerful men who would later become known as notorious paedophiles.
‘Basically in the morning … everyone believes that he’s a really nice person, and in the afternoon they’re all gay and drunk and happy, and no one gets to see what’s really going on’, Alex said. ‘State wards became food for them, for the people like that.’
Two weeks after Alex left the boarding house, Connelly was charged with sexually abusing another boy, and was revealed to have had prior convictions of this kind.
The years after Alex left care are difficult for him to recall. He gained a trade qualification, and got married and started a family. His plans to change his career were derailed by a ‘breakdown’ which was triggered when he began to compare himself with his eldest child – realising ‘how little’ he had been at the time he was sexually abused suddenly made him zero in on what had happened to him. His marriage broke down, and he lost contact with his children for quite a few years.
Alex was diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, which he says ‘feels as though there are some personalities can deal with this sort of pain, and other ones that don’t, and they sort of struggle with each other’.
In the 1990s, he overcame his inability to trust people, and received support from a counsellor. However, these days he doesn’t ‘want to bother anybody’.
Alex later reported the sexual abuse to the police. He believes they ‘changed the names and turned it into a whole pile of gobbledygook’ and this was ‘an act of treason against the country’. ‘I was trying to do the right thing, and say the truth, and they just didn’t deal with it’, he said. ‘Since I did that, everything has gone to hell. I swear, I mean, everything you can imagine. I’ve had numerous attacks and numerous threats … I had my hopes up then, and it was all just splatted down.’
Today, Alex has a good relationship with Scott. He and Scott’s mother did their best to provide a good environment for him, but decided that they can only have a ‘proper relationship’ when Alex is living on his own.
Meanwhile, Alex says that he is ‘sick of having to hold it inside of me’. He wants a ‘resolution’, and is willing to do whatever he can ‘to make the place a better place in the future’.
While he trusts the Commission, he is wary of high level interference and corruption. It’s ‘a lot higher and a lot dirtier than most people can imagine’, he said. ‘What makes me scared, more than anything, is not the people that have the sickness … It’s the ones that are doing nothing about it because of their fear.’