‘I didn’t have much of a childhood really, ‘cause my mum, she had dark blood in her and I was about two when my father and my mother went to my grandparents’ place and Grand-Pop didn’t like dark people and he said, “Your kid can stay here and you can fuck off”. I never seen me mum from then up till 1980. I met her in 1980. We were always told she was dead. When my old man married again, the stepmother, she didn’t want nothing to do with me or me sister so my father put me in a boys’ home and me sister in a girls’ home. I was only about five I think.’
Alwyn’s memories of his first five years are sketchy but some recollections, which have been confirmed by relatives, are of being tied to a bench and sexually abused by his grandfather.
After this time, he arrived in a Salvation Army boys’ home in New South Wales in the early 1950s and during his years in the home he was regularly sexually abused by the manager, Mr Hanks. Alwyn told another officer Captain Gallen about the abuse, but ‘he didn’t want to hear about it’ and the abuse continued for the remaining years Alwyn was in the home.
During holidays volunteers from Rotary and Lions Club would take boys out and during one of these times Alwyn was sexually abused by a man who’d been permitted to take him away alone.
In 1958 and aged 11, Alwyn was sent to an Anglican boys’ home. He doesn’t know how he ended up there but during the three years of his stay, the manager, Mr McEwan would regularly take Alwyn to his house, chain him up and sexually abuse him.
When he was 14, Alwyn was called into the office of McEwan and told there was no court order requiring him to stay and he could leave whenever he wished. ‘I couldn’t get out of there quick enough’, Alwyn said. He thought some people might have started to ask questions about McEwan’s behaviour and that the manager wanted to get of Alwyn quickly.
Leaving the home, Alwyn returned to his father but wasn’t wanted so he went to live on the streets. ‘Then I started doing burglaries, stealing cars. I sort of just didn’t care. Nobody cared about me so why should I care, you know?’
By 17, Alwyn was in jail and in the intervening 52 years had spent extended periods serving sentences for various crimes. At the time of speaking to the Royal Commission he was 16 years into a life sentence he was serving in a Queensland jail. He refused to do any of the prison courses recommended because he perceived that he was serving time for crimes he’d committed in New South Wales not Queensland. ‘Look’s like I’m here to stay’, he said.
When he was younger he’d lived with the motto ‘I don’t give a fuck’, but said he now ‘does give a fuck’. His family don’t talk to him because of his crimes and he hadn’t had a visitor in ‘two, three years’.
Throughout the previous 11 years, Alwyn had been working as a carer for elderly prisoners, a job he enjoyed. ‘Most of them are in their 70s, 80s. I’ve got one bloke, 89 … It’s just me seven days a week.’
He didn’t tell anyone about being sexually abused as a child until 2014 when he saw reports of the Royal Commission’s work in the media. When a Salvation Army officer visited the jail, he spoke about his experiences, then wrote a statement outlining the abuse by Hanks. Alwyn felt supported throughout the process of reporting and received $70,000 compensation.
He described himself as a loner and said that apart from his work with elderly prisoners, the thing that helped him was doing yoga.
‘I taught meself. You can buy books: “Teach Yourself Yoga”, and at that time, there was a program on Channel 10, six o’clock every morning –a half-hour on yoga so I used to watch it. I was playing racquetball. I used to play for about three hours. I just hit the deck and me back was gone and I thought, “Oh shit!”, ‘cause I had a bit of back trouble earlier on that sort of fixed itself up.
‘I went to see the doctor and I said to the doctor, I said, “You reckon if I try yoga that might help?” He said, “Yeah” … He brought a book in, he give it to me too; it’s on yoga. I might do 20 minutes, 30 minutes a day. I only just finished doing some before I got called down here. I usually do it in the afternoon cause most of the guys have a sleep after we have an afternoon muster. Most of the guys go and have a lay down for a couple of hours so I got a couple of hours to myself.’