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Arman's story

When Arman was a child, growing up in Iran, he was a straight A student. Now he’s in prison.

‘My goals were that I’d be rocket scientist and go to the moon and stuff like that. And when I come to Australia I become a completely different kid.’

Arman arrived with his family when he was 13 and by the time he was 15, his single father was raising four children alone. Some of his friends at high school were training as jockeys and because Arman was small and wiry, they suggested he join them. His father didn’t approve but Arman did it anyway. When he got found out his father threatened to hit him so he ran away from home.

‘When the police found me they went, “Oh mister, why don’t you put your son in government care and the government will look after him until he’s 17, 18. And you’re not doing too good at the moment” … My father went along with it.’

Arman was made a state ward and after a short period in a reception centre he was moved to a boys’ home in Victoria run by the Franciscan Brothers. This was in the late 1960s and Arman said none of the boys at the home went to school, instead having to work in the piggery, the garden or the metal shop.

Arman worked in the latter, which was run by an employee who regularly abused the boys.

‘This guy, he’d sit you on his knee and play around. He’d have like a partition and he’d call you in and you’d go there and he’d ask you questions, and kiss you on the neck and make this funny noise – I can still hear it – and so after about a month I escaped. I couldn’t handle it anymore.’

Arman ran away from the home but he was caught and brought back.

‘I told my father and I said, “Dad, you don’t know where you’ve put me.” Because they were priests he didn’t believe me, my own father, he thought I was making stories up.’

Arman is sure the priests knew what was going on because they frequently walked through the metal shop, but they did nothing to stop the abuse.

By the time he was 17 he had escaped the home three times, reaching as far as Queensland and Western Australia. But he was always brought back. He never reported the abuse to the police as he was too scared, and knew he would not be believed.

‘You tell your own family and they don’t believe you. So you don’t speak about it anymore.’

Until the age of 21, Arman was sent to a different home to finish his ‘sentence’. After that his life spiralled out of control and he has been in and out of prisons ever since. He had to teach himself to read and write.

There are other, unexpected impacts, too. Because he ran away from the boys’ home so often – nearly 50 years ago – he is still classified as an escape risk and cannot serve his current sentence in an open jail.

‘I’m still paying for it to this day because I can’t go to another prison … They don’t ask you why. I wasn’t in there ’cause I done crime.’

Arman said as he has got older the memories have come back more strongly, but he feels he can’t do much about it. He disclosed to a counsellor once when he was in his 50s, but the abuse wasn’t dealt with in any targeted way.

He was, however, very grateful for the opportunity to tell his story. He told the Commissioner, ‘Even now I feel lighter in my brain’.

He said if there was some kind of specialist kids could tell, he might have been believed all those years ago and things might have been different.

As it is, Arman’s dreams of space have long gone, as has much of his hope.

‘I got no one really. I’m over my sentence now, still waiting to get parole … I’ve got no parents, I really haven’t got anyone to go into bat for me. And it’s very hard. But such is life. Maybe next life time will be better.’

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