Barry Stephen's story

Barry’s parents separated in the late 1950s. His mum couldn’t cope on her own; when he was nine Barry and his siblings were taken into care and sent to live in a home run by the Anglican Church near Perth. ‘The worst three years of my life’, Barry told the Commissioner.

The accommodation was cottage style, with live-in house parents supervising children of all ages. Mr and Mrs Kraft looked after Barry for three years. Mrs Kraft was definitely in charge. ‘Everything had to be done her way.’ Mr Kraft would cane the children for misdemeanours, but it was always on Mrs Kraft’s orders.

Early in his stay Barry was visited in the middle of the night by one of his housemates, a 16 or 17-year-old boy named Eddie Smith. Barry was one of the youngest kids in his cottage and slept in a bed well away from the house parents’ door.

‘Being near the toilets, I don’t know, I think he decided “I’ll have a go and see what happens”.’

‘Well, he was two times bigger than me, and he just says, “Shut up or I’ll smack ya”, so I did. And he just has his way with me. That night he did not penetrate me, it was just sort of between the legs or something.

‘Being a nine-year-old kid I did not know what was going on. I didn’t have an idea.’

Barry, confused and frightened, didn’t report the attack. ‘I wasn’t going to say anything, because he was going to belt me. And I was scared … I couldn’t tell.’

The abuse continued and escalated to rape. One weekend there was blood on the sheets in the morning. A fill-in carer noticed and questioned Barry. ‘I just said I’d cut my foot, but she knew something was happening.’

Smith attacked Barry regularly for three months. ‘I started wetting the bed. Of course you try and hide it, but you can’t hide it. I got beaten for that, with the cane. And it was just an ongoing thing, getting beaten.’

The sexual abuse ended when Smith was suddenly shifted to another cottage. Barry believes Mr and Mrs Kraft knew nothing of the attacks, or didn’t care.

‘You do feel ashamed because, now that I’m in my 60s, I realise that it shouldn’t have happened … If I had been a bit older and knew what was going on it wouldn’t have happened.’ That shame kept Barry silent about the abuse for most of his life. ‘I didn’t want it out there. I just wanted it bottled up in me.’

His mother retrieved him and his siblings from the home when Barry was 12. ‘I was a little bit shy there during my teenage years, but then I got called up for nashos [national service] and I done two years in the army, and after that I was pretty well fine.’

But for Barry the memories of the childhood abuse still have power and he is reluctant to tell his story. He has told his wife about his past but no one else in his family. His mother never knew.

In the 2000s Barry participated in Western Australia’s redress scheme. He spent time with a counsellor and spoke about the physical and sexual abuse. ‘Sitting with her and letting her ask me questions - I was crying, I had a breakdown.’

Barry can’t recall if he received a payment from the scheme. Compensation wasn’t important to him, but he felt the process was beneficial. ‘I was happy with the redress, I really was. It took a lot of emotion out of me … She was a really nice lady and she knew what was going on.’

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