‘It all started ’cause I used to run away from home and wag school and all that and … basically living on the streets because … all the violence [at home]’
In the early 2000s, Augie was made a ward of the state and was taken to a home for Aboriginal boys in regional Western Australia. When he got there, the staff told him, ‘It’s a nice place. You’ll get along with everyone. We’ll teach you a lot. You’ll be a better person’. He was 11 years old and he didn’t want to stay there.
Augie was taken to ‘this place to just have a look … they never said nothing about leaving me there … [but] when we got there I knew … had a feeling there was no way I was going to be going back home. So I didn’t want to get out of the car. They dragged me out of the car and I wouldn’t leave my mum’s side’.
When the welfare officer drove away with his mother in the car, Augie ran after them, ‘screaming my head off and crying. I was scared of this place’. A staff member dragged him away and told him he would never see his mother again. ‘You’re gonna be here until you’re old enough to do your own thing.’
The boys were treated badly by the staff at the home. ‘I just always wanted to get out of the place … They always say, “Oh, we’re just toughening youse up … [They would] beat us … “We’re making you a man”’.
Augie was told he wouldn’t be able to see his family and kept running away but was caught and dragged back each time. He was sexually abused by older boys in the home.
‘Boys that were older than me, they always said, “Oh, we’ll play a game”. I didn’t care if it was a game … I didn’t like it. It was just a game, so I tried to tell people … They just said “You’re just making shit up”.’
Augie believes that the staff just ‘didn’t care. The older boys are there to basically … they make them prefects of the place. So whatever goes on, the older boys have to sort it out … They control the place. If we try to go to [the staff], they just say, “Well, you’ve got the older person to talk to. Go and talk to him”’. The sexual abuse continued until the older boys had left, and ‘once I was the oldest, I didn’t do that’.
Augie told the Commissioner, ‘I looked at it as, it’s meant to be helping me … it’s meant to change my ways of things, you know, but it’s done nothing for me … I’ve been in and out of jail since 19 and every time I look back, every time someone mentions [the home] it just brings back all the memories’.
Augie has never told his mother what happened to him at the home but when she told him that one of their relatives had been sexually abusing his daughters, it made him think, ‘Well, I’ve been through it. Now they’ve gone through it … It shouldn’t happen like that. I mean … you’re getting all these people that are in for sex offending and all that, all getting out. They’re just getting out and going back doing the same thing’.
Augie believes that counselling would help him. ‘I’ve told ’em I need counselling. Nothing’s happened … I told my lawyer that I need counselling. Nothing’s happened. The way I more or less … forget about it and stuff like that is I use drugs, just to clear my mind, just to forget all about it … I shoot up. I use a lot of speed. I use anything, just to try and clear my mind.’
Augie told the Commissioner that if someone had asked him questions about the abuse at the time, he would have told them, but now it ‘hurts me to speak to anyone about it … Every time I lay down into a bed, I … just think like … is something like that going to happen to me again? I couldn’t even sleep with my own partner, because I was that scared. And that’s a female, and I was even scared to sleep in the same bed as her’.
Shame has prevented Augie from talking to anyone about his sexual abuse. ‘I’m ashamed of what happened to me. I’m ashamed that I couldn’t even tell anyone. If I wasn’t ashamed to tell anyone, I would’ve told ’em.’
Augie approached Royal Commission because, ‘when they come up to visit and they told us what it’s about, I want to help as much as I can … I would like kids … I wouldn’t want them going through the same stuff that I’ve been through. I want at least to have a different way of being in welfare or whatever. If they go into welfare, they need to be safe and everyone has to be at least the same age, instead of … like me, and going into that home … maybe if children … are in a better environment then that’ll be heaps better for ’em’.