Arturo Paul's story

‘I went to school being told that I just don’t exist.’

Arturo felt ‘very lonely’ as a child. His father worked numerous jobs to support his large family and his mother stayed at home to care for the children. Arturo described his dad as ‘an angry Aboriginal man’ who was often forceful with his children, and his family life as ‘dysfunctional’.

At the age of 14 at his high school in Tasmania, Arturo said he was subjected to ‘ignorance’ and ‘racial abuse’ for being the only Aboriginal student. In the late 1970s, Arturo was involved in a minor incident at the school, was made a ward of the state and placed into a boys’ home in a neighbouring town. Arturo was never told the reason why he was placed into state care, but he believes it was a combination of his behaviour and his parents’ struggle with raising a large family.

The boys’ home had an ‘authoritarian energy’ that was familiar for Arturo. He said there was little education provided by the workers and so he taught himself to read and write. The workers of the home were physically and psychologically abusive to the boys. Arturo said he ran away from the home at least three times, but was always returned.

He recalled some of the workers watching and touching the boys inappropriately during shower time. He can’t recall if he told anyone about what was happening in the home, as he said he has ‘suppressed’ memories of the place, but he believes he was sexually and physically abused by a specific worker multiple times. Arturo refused to name him during his private session with the Commissioner.

‘I remember being shoved into a wall when there was a protruding thing where you put your bloody electrical things.’

When Arturo left the home at the age of 16, he was an ‘angry’ person with very low confidence. He turned to drug and alcohol abuse, and still struggles with this today. Arturo was also involved in criminal activities and served several terms of imprisonment from his teenage years into his 30s.

‘I was an angry young man and I was drinking. It was a natural progression, boy’s home to jail.’

Arturo has found it hard to sustain a stable relationship. He said that he tends to choose ‘drinking partners’ instead of an established, intimate relationship. When he was 32, Arturo had his first child. He said they have a strained relationship, but he would like to have regular contact with his kid. He also has a stepchild from a previous partnership, and he sees the child as often as he can.

Arturo has never worked. He travelled around Australia for years while continuing his drug and alcohol use. Arturo has been on and off antidepressant medication for many years, which he believes has affected his memory. He told the Commissioner that he previously spent a couple of years in a rehabilitation centre in Tasmania which was successful. He still uses drugs but wishes to access rehabilitation programs to ‘benefit’ himself.

Since he left the boys’ home, Arturo has distanced himself from his family. He said he has a ‘fractured’ relationship with them because he is ‘the one that talks’. He is frustrated that his family ‘act white’ and ‘pretend’, whereas he likes to ‘embrace’ his Aboriginal culture.

Arturo said he’s learnt a lot about himself by ‘embracing God and the Bible’ in his life. He said his anger has been reduced and that he believes that his heritage is important. He has found solace in the Church and wants to change his ways.

‘I know that I’m not a piece of shit. I’m actually quite a good person. That’s why I’m embracing God now, because if you get angry, people [will] use it against you.’

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