Arne's story

Arne had a difficult childhood.

He grew up in Sydney in the 1960s. His father left the family when he was eight years old and he lived with his mother and sister, but home life was unhappy and he spent some time living on the streets. When he was 12, his mother took him down to the police station and told the police he was uncontrollable.

‘I know now the reason that my mother did that was because she was going away on a Hawaiian cruise and she didn’t want me to be with my sister or come to the house.’

Arne told the Commissioner he vividly remembers sitting in the police station that day.

‘The police officer … said to my mother, “Are you sure you want to do this? You know where he’ll end up?” And she said “Yes”. I didn’t know where I was going to end up of course.’

He ended up in a remand centre in suburban Sydney where he spent the next three to four months while the authorities waited for his mother to return so they could hear his case.

He remembers the showers at the centre had no doors on them. One time shortly after arriving, he was having a shower and an officer came and watched him, looked him up and down and said he was a ‘nice little boy’ and other things that Arne didn’t like.

The same officer would come into the dormitory at night.

‘I heard him come into the dormitory … then I would pull the blankets over my head because I knew what was going to happen and I didn’t have any way of preventing it.’

Arne said the officer would stand next to his bed and touch him all over.

‘But it wasn’t just me it was others as well. I think I was lucky, I really do think I was the lucky one. He must have taken a better liking to some of the other boys so I suppose I’m lucky with that aren’t I? It’s terrible to think that.’

He said he thinks some of the others were abused worse than he was. This went on every time the officer was on duty for the duration of his time there. He didn’t report the abuse to anyone.

‘I was ashamed. I thought it was my fault. I used to think maybe I did something.’

When he left the centre he was placed on a 12-month good behaviour bond and sent to live with his grandmother. He had nightmares and didn’t cope well and at the end of the 12 months he went back to live on the streets.

He fell in with other children and survived somehow, although he witnessed children his age dying of heroin overdoses and never went to high school. When he was 16 he came across a reverend who helped him get off the streets and he has been a Christian ever since.

Arne married and had a daughter and started his own business. However, he committed a child sex offence for which he is currently serving a long sentence.

He strongly believes that what happened to him as a child was the reason he committed his offence.

‘I was looking for reasons of how I committed my offence and it came out in sessions with my psychologist. I hadn’t spoken to anyone about it … I’m not looking for an excuse for what I did, I’m just looking for a reason.’

Arne was very upset while telling his story. He still has time left on his sentence and is now suffering from a serious illness. But he has support from his current partner, who is aware of his past.

‘I’m still a Christian to this day. It helps me also with my [illness]. My faith is very strong and it’s the only thing that has got me through. I had a pretty bad life.’

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