When he was a small boy Aluin was involved in a near-fatal car accident that meant months of rehabilitation in hospital and falling behind in his school work.
He never caught up. His European-born parents also argued constantly at home and were neglectful. By the time he was 10 he was hanging around with friends of his brother, five years his elder, who incited him to steal from cars.
By the age of 11, having lived on the streets for periods when he ran away from home, Aluin had ‘progressed’ and was in trouble with the police.
While housed for several months at a juvenile detention centre in Queensland in the 1990s, he was sexually abused by older boys in a dormitory. He was 12. They would stand over him and force him to play with their penises – abuse of which at least one staff member, Fred Nelson, was ‘definitely’ aware.
For four years he was in and out of juvenile detention centres for ‘minor stuff’.
At another centre Aluin found one of the male carers ‘very touchy’. On every shift he’d say to the boys, ‘I’ve gotta check your foreskins for rashes’ and ‘just stuff like that’. Female staff were also involved in sexual relationships with underage boys and would take them out for day leave, he saw, although he was not involved.
It was ‘totally corrupt’ at that particular centre, Aluin said. ‘They had no idea how to control any of the kids.’
Boys were bribed with pizza and cigarettes to remain well behaved on occasions. One staffer, at the suggestion of one of the boys, brought in clean needles to replace used drug paraphernalia.
When he returned to the original detention centre where he was sexually abused at 12, he saw Fred Nelson physically and verbally assaulting Aboriginal boys, flogging them and confining them to isolation for weeks at a time.
Aluin distinctly remembers the words of a policewoman from when he was first incarcerated. ‘Your life is all programmed. You are going to be on drugs by the time you’re 16 and you’ll be doing a decent stretch in an adult jail.’
‘I remember that,’ Aluin told the Royal Commission, ‘because it exactly panned out – exactly how she said it.’
Just as predicted, after his encounters with three juvenile detention and care facilities, his drug dependency began.
‘I really hit the drugs hard and spent probably two years after that running absolutely amok and finally got arrested,’ Aluin recalled. It was the late 1990s.
In his twenties, after serving just under half of a nine-year sentence for drug-related matters, he was released on parole.
After that he thought, ‘This is it. I’m sick of it. If I don’t make it this time basically I’m going to kill myself.’
By then he had three children, one born while he was in jail. So he got a job, and then another one and started his own business which eventually went ‘extremely well’, Aluin said proudly.
‘I didn’t want my kids to be abused so I always vowed to keep them as close as I could to me.’ This involved being ‘extremely protective’ and never allowing them to ‘sleep over anywhere’.
Aluin used a ‘hard’ front as a shield and never confided in several of his partners. ‘I kept all of that completely to myself, never spoke about it, nothing.’
He has since told his wife ‘in full’ about the abuse but is not interested, presently, in either making a police report or seeking compensation.
Aluin does feel ‘robbed’ of some experiences. For instance, ‘I’ve never seen my kids naked’, he said, and was accused in the past of being ‘lazy’ for ‘not changing nappies. But I physically couldn’t’.
He stayed out of jail, he said, largely to be a good dad to his kids.
‘A lot of my resentment when I was young was kinda against authority. A lot of it was ‘cause of the abuse and stuff … I don’t think I let go of that resentment and hatred until my early 20s.’
‘Basically you can sit around and dwell on this is what happened to me or you can try to make something for yourself,’ Aluin said.
He agrees that creating an opportunity or pathway for children to move out of juvenile justice after their first contact may help some of them avoid later entrenchment in crime.