Alexei’s father was ‘a hard worker, but he was a very bad drunk, you know. Like he used to belt me mum, and be aggressive towards us’. In the early 1970s, when Alexei was 10 years old, his parents separated, and the kids were split up too. He went to live with his dad, who was very strict and did not take good care of him.
Because they moved around a bit, Alexei did not attend school regularly and came to the attention of authorities. He was taken into care, and placed in an Anglican boys’ home in Sydney’s west.
‘I’d done nothing wrong, just because I wasn’t going to school, there was no charges – it was just for someone to look after me.’ It was at the home he was first sexually assaulted, by housemaster Mr Charles.
Charles raped Alexei both orally and anally on several occasions – at the home, in his car, and while away on camp with a few other boys. He told Alexei, ‘it’s just our little thing’.
After a short period, Alexei stole some money from the home and ran away to escape this abuse, living on the streets with another young boy. He was cared for by some sex workers who took him in, until police found him.
In court, Alexei was charged with stealing the money from the home and being ‘exposed to moral danger’. He pleaded guilty and was sent to a government-run home a couple of hours out of the city, where he stayed for a year.
Not being at the Anglican home anymore, Alexei hoped he would be safe from sexual abuse. However, it was ‘not long before things started down there too – just a never-ending cycle’.
He was sexually abused by Mr Hedger, a staff member. Hedger was ‘more a touchy-feely bloke ... He used to get me to give him rubs on the back and things like that, and then he started telling me where to touch him ... He made me what was called his “houseboy”, to clean the house and the offices’. This abuse happened regularly: ‘I couldn’t tell you how many times’.
When Alexei was around 13 years old, Charles collected him and returned him to the Anglican boys’ home. He sexually abused Alexei once again, but ‘I told him, mate, it’s not going to happen anymore ... I gather he moved on to other people. There was no more after that, he just wanted to make sure that I hadn’t told anyone’.
At 14, Alexei ran away again, ending up a juvenile detention facility in western Sydney. One of the senior staff, Mr Morrison, made Alexei perform oral sex on him. Morrison would take Alexei to his home a few times a week, giving him cigarettes and other presents. The abuse occurred in Morrison’s car, and ‘a lot in his house’, over a six-month period. Morrison was married with a young family, but ‘the wife would never know, when it happened she wasn’t around’.
In one incident, Morrison and Alexei were parked in a secluded spot, and ‘police came that night. He had his pants down, so did I ... I don’t know what eventuated from it, if they took the number of the car or not, but it was very close’.
After Alexei’s time at the detention centre finished, his mum agreed to take him in, on the proviso he got a job. He worked for a couple of years, but soon ended up in jail for committing a break and enter.
He became addicted to heroin and began committing crimes to support this habit – ‘I just had problems with that my whole life’. In and out of jail regularly, he was never in the community very long, and he is currently serving a lengthy prison sentence.
Before speaking with the Royal Commission, Alexei had never told anyone about the sexual abuse – ‘I never reported it. I just always gritted the teeth and got on with it’. He had hinted to his legal representation that ‘something’ had happened when he was in care, but never gone into the specific details.
He was prompted to share his story after seeing Morrison on the television recently, in relation to the sexual abuse of children at another institution. ‘It just bought back everything. Just the same person ... the hair’s grey, and the beard was grey, but otherwise it was him.’
Although Alexei has not reported the abuse to police, he is interested in reporting Charles now. As yet, he hasn’t made a claim for compensation against the government or individual institutions. He recommended to the Commissioner that kids in care should never be left one-on-one with an adult.
Alexei has always been ‘one out’ in jail (that is, in his own cell), as ‘I can’t live with someone – it just gets to me’. He still keeps in touch with family, and stays with his mum when he is out. Still, ‘I’ve spent most of my life in jail – very small amounts of time I’m out. And I just use heroin again’.
At the moment Alexei is working hard in a program designed to help him avoid re-offending when he is released. He is on methadone now, and starting to recognise the links between his drug-taking and the abuse in his childhood. ‘All these years, I never even understood why I used heroin.’