‘I’m not saying I’m a goody-two-shoes or anything like that, I’m not. As I said to everybody, I made my rod. I’ve been alone all my life. I’ve never wanted to marry anybody or have sex with anybody. I still don’t because of what I went through.
'I love my friends around me, but I don’t let them get too close. Like the people that abused me, you let them get too close, you feel like you’re closing in, you’ve got to get up and move on. And that’s the only way I can do it, moving on all the time.’
Antony said he’s always been a bit of rogue. Growing up as one of 10 kids in a small house in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1940s, he wanted to be rich, so he would steal money from the milkman and the bread man.
When he was about seven, his mother sent him to an Anglican boys’ home as she was struggling with all the children. At the home he was sexually abused by the priest who was in charge. The priest took Antony to his office and raped him. This happened twice, and both times Antony tried to run away but was returned to the home and beaten.
After about six months, his mother couldn’t afford to keep paying for the care, so Antony returned to the family home. When he was 10 he pinched one of the bikes from the school bike rack and went for a joy ride. He was sent before the courts, made a ward of the state and was sent to a state-run reception centre, then a boys’ home run by the Salvation Army.
He described the Salvation Army home as ‘a hell camp’.
Along with hard physical labour, a disregard for his education and a total lack of affection, sexual abuse was common. Two officers in particular abused Antony – Envoy Brown and Lieutenant Darren Wilson. Brown was in charge of Antony’s dormitory. He took Antony from the dorm into his room and forced him to engage in oral sex.
‘He would come up with a packet full of chips and say “Come in”, and then you’d eat the chips and that’s when it happens. I know other people there was getting the same treatment as I was getting.’
When Brown was away for the night, Wilson would come into the dormitory, take Antony into Brown’s room or the clothes store and rape him. This happened a number of times. Antony said of Wilson: ‘I never, ever hated a man so much for what he did’.
Wilson would also be extremely violent and leave the boys with big bruises on their legs. Antony said when he showed his bruises to the matron, she slapped him in the face for telling lies. On one occasion he ran away as he couldn’t take it anymore but he was brought back and beaten. Nobody asked why he had run away.
‘Once, when I was about 13, the children’s welfare officer come up and said to me, “You’re no good, you’re a habitual criminal”. I swear on my mother’s grave, that’s what he said, and I could have hit him with a house brick right there and then. I’m not a violent person, I’m not a big noter or anything like that. That’s the kind of things they made you feel like doing to somebody.’
He never told anyone in the home about the sexual abuse as he knew there was no point. He once tried to tell his father but he refused to believe the Salvation Army would do such things.
Antony left that home at age 15 and was sent around to various other homes until he was 19. ‘They put me in a halfway hostel run by the children’s welfare department and that’s when I come back to become a rogue again.’
Antony became involved in criminal activity, ended up in jail soon after, and has since been in trouble with the law ‘a fair bit’.
In 2010 he heard on the radio about a class action against the Salvation Army over sexual and physical abuse and his aunt persuaded him to join the suit. He received a written apology and a payment of $45,000, which came down to $35,000 after costs were taken out. Both meant very little to him.
‘There’s not enough money in the bank for what I’m going through. I got a letter from them saying they apologise and I said to them, “Well, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but this piece of paper here is good for the toilet. Bum paper”.’
The trauma Antony experienced has ongoing emotional and mental impacts, and he is now on a disability pension. He sees a psychologist and gets regular support from a service for Forgotten Australians but he still finds it difficult to talk about his experiences.
‘I tried to dodge it for a long time … and you know, you’ll hide things and you keep on hiding things and it just gets the worse of you. It eats your stomach out.
‘At one stage I was on the edge of finishing it all off, but then I made a decision, because I don’t want to go into purgatory or whatever you call it, where you’re going to float around the hereafter instead of getting buried and lying in that grave. I said, “No, that’s a weak way out”, and I said “No, I will stick it out and see how far I can go with it".’
However, he has the strength and determination to see justice done.
‘A lot of the homes are gone, yes, but there’s still a lot of those, in my opinion, arseholes out there that’s doing it to kids and they have got to stop.
‘If I can bring it out in the open, naming people and saying these people should never have been granted a licence to be in a home, then that’s justice to me.'