‘There are two words I don’t want to hear: sorry or unfortunate. I’ve heard that for 65 years.’
From the age of 18 months, Angus spent long periods of time between 1940 and 1947 in a care facility for children with physical disabilities. He remembered several workers at the home as kind and attentive, including one nurse who took him and one of the girls on excursions to the city and bought them ice-cream. On those days, Angus didn’t want to return. ‘You’d be saying, “Hope the train takes all day to get there”.’
Other workers were cruel though. One nurse would leave children – who were unable to get up themselves – in urine-soaked beds all night. Several nurses used very hot water in the children’s baths as a punishment. Angus said he thought it was known among at least some adults that the wardsman was sexually abusing children, especially after two girls became pregnant as a result of his abuse.
‘When he got these girls pregnant, why wasn’t he sacked? Why wasn’t it brought out? I can’t understand it.’
Angus told the Commissioner that he was sexually abused by older boys at the home, but because his mobility wasn’t as limited as some other boys, he was often able to escape. ‘Some of the senior boys used to visit’, Angus said. ‘When we saw them we were off. I was caught once or twice. I wasn’t penetrated, but fondled, yes.’
Angus didn’t disclose the abuse to anyone until 2014 when he met a man he trusted through a support agency. ‘You feel as though you’re dirty. I know you’re not, but it’s hard to get away from that thought and you don’t want to tell everyone your business …
‘No one reported it. You weren’t game to in one respect. You knew who the boys were and when you saw them coming you were out, and of course I was first out … I wasn’t standing around. But the others – I know what I think happened to them.’
Angus thought that staff would have known what the older boys were doing, particularly because one of them was the matron’s ‘favourite’. Two of the nurses used to patrol the area where the senior boys perpetrated the abuse, while others actively avoided it.
At the time of coming to the Royal Commission, Angus said he was still trying to find records of his time in the home. He’d heard mixed messages about why they weren’t available, including that they’d been destroyed. The home’s classification as a hospital-school was an added obstacle in finding who was responsible for archiving the records. This was also given as a reason as to why Angus wasn’t eligible to access Queensland’s redress scheme for those who’d been in care institutions.
As an adult, Angus began writing as a way of managing distressing thoughts associated with the abuse, and soon found himself popular as a speaker at functions. He married and had four children, and described his wife as his ‘backbone’.
‘My wife, we have our blues like everyone, but I wouldn’t swap her for gold. Wouldn’t swap her for gold.’
Angus hadn’t applied for compensation or redress through other avenues and didn’t have plans to, though he thought monetary payment would help further his writing and publishing plans.
He observed that those like him who’d been in institutions were often best-placed to advise government and decision-makers on matters relating to being in care.
‘If you ever get to the powers that be, always ask, why can’t we have a person who’s been through, anyone who’s been through it, get their opinion on the board. It’s good to have the Commission, I agree on that but that’s after the horse. You’re only learning now what’s happened, but we’ve been through it or others have been through it …
‘Anyway I’m glad to bring it out, bring things to improve what you’re doing, to bring it out in the open.’