Andrew Peter's story

‘I’m a drug addict. I don’t care. The system drove me to drugs … You know why I go back to using drugs? Because it helps me hide everything. It helps me cope. It helps me fucking do away with all the bullshit that I’ve got to go through … you know. Remembering. Remembering what happened …’

Andrew told the Commissioner, ‘I never had a family life because they wouldn’t let me be with my family. They took me from my family at the age of two. I’ve had to live with this all my life, in and out of jail … [and] for 21 years … because of all that shuffling around, I didn’t know my heritage was Aboriginal’.

Andrew was placed in an orphanage in the late 1960s, when he was two years old. When he was seven he was sent to a juvenile detention centre, and for the next eight years was moved back and forth between juvenile detention centres and boys’ homes in Queensland.

‘Some of the things that happened to me as a child were just shocking. [The orphanage] for one. We used to come home from school … and every kid getting off that bus would race the length of that driveway … the last one would get caned.’

At 15, Andrew was sent to an adult prison, after he ran away from one of the juvenile detention centres. ‘I always thought the Children’s Services had the last say on a juvenile. Could have released me from jail and not have me spend those years there. Instead, they let me stay there.’

When Andrew was sent to the first juvenile detention centre, he kept running away. ‘At the age of … seven, eight years old I was put in a straitjacket in a room … All I wanted to do was go home.’ Andrew was sexually abused by one of the training officers at this centre. ‘He was always hugging me and kissing me and fondling me and stuff like that … and I was only a little boy.’

Andrew ran away from that first centre ‘[so] many times, I got a record for running away from there. They couldn’t keep me there, so they sent me to [another detention centre] at the age of 11, when you’re supposed to be 13, minimum’.

From the early 1980s, Andrew spent nearly 20 years in jail. When the opportunity arose for him to begin what could have been a successful sporting career, the parole board refused to allow it. ‘My dream fell through … My childhood dream, shattered by a system …’

Andrew told the Commissioner that when this happened, he said, ‘Well, fuck youse then. You’ve got yourself a career criminal and that’s what they ended up with, because that’s all I knew’.

Rather than let him out, with the prospect of accommodation and a good livelihood, Andrew came out of jail and ‘the only way I knew how to make money was drugs and crime … I’ve been in those rackets all my life. The system made me that way’.

When he was a child in the adult jail, Andrew was subjected to repeated sexual assaults by inmates. ‘I was just subject to crime and violence all my life. At [a boys’ home] I was bashed by Brothers with a strap … When they whipped me … I said, “See youse later. I’m outta here. And I bolted’. He was caught and sent from one detention centre to the next, until he eventually ended up in the adult jail.

‘Prison turned me into a … violent criminal. In the end, I don’t use violence anymore. I … opt against it. But they put me down as an organised crime gang member because I’m a motorcycle club member. That’s my life.’ Once his current prison sentence ends, Andrew is determined not to return to prison.

Andrew was happy to tell his story to the Royal Commission, but ‘it’s the sexual assaults that I find hard coming to terms with talking about, because that’s the first time I’ve ever spoken about them’.

Andrew missed out on compensation from Queensland’s Forde Inquiry, and missed the deadline for a redress scheme, but he will contact the free legal service, knowmore, and investigate his options once he gets out of jail. ‘I’ll always say there’s no amount of money that can pay for what’s happened … but it can stop my kids from coming to the system.’

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