Barry grew up with his grandparents in country New South Wales. In the late 1950s he left school and took to the road with a friend, travelling to Queensland. They arrived without money or any means of support and were caught by police after breaking into a shop to steal food and cigarettes. Remanded in custody, Barry was sent to an adult prison even though he was only 15 years old.
During the six-week remand period, he was sexually assaulted by two other inmates who had been allowed access to his cell by a prison officer.
‘In the mornings, you’d go out, but this day they let the other two out of the cell and they kept me there. Next thing, the door opens and two blokes come in, and the door gets locked again.’ The two men bashed him and one held an ice-pick to his throat. ‘He said, “You say anything and this is what you’ll get”. And then they did the sexual assault.’
Barry said the next day an inmate who came from his home town in New South Wales warned the offenders off and he was left alone for the next six weeks. Following his next court appearance, he was sent to a boys’ home to serve out his sentence. He described the home as brutal and the people extremely cruel in meting out physical punishment. ‘I walked in and the superintendent put his hand out, I thought to shake it, and when I put mine out, he gave me a backhander across the face. It went from there.’
Barry had never told anyone about his experiences of sexual or physical abuse. However, one day his wife read an excerpt from a book written by an ex-resident of the boys’ home.
‘She was reading the book to me and at the same time there was all this stuff coming out about the Royal Commission, and I thought bugger this, I’m going to say what I know too.’
Barry said it had been a relief to tell his wife and that she’d said much of his past behaviour now made sense to her. ‘I did some strange things over the years. One day I just took off and went to Perth. I can’t even say why, I just did.’
Barry said talking about problems wasn’t something he knew how to do, and he usually managed feelings and memories by going to the pub to try and get rid of them. ‘My wife says I keep everything inside. Things that’d happen, I’d worry. It’s hard to explain. But I was told about counselling the other day, and I thought that might not be a bad idea.’