In the early 1950s when Bertrand was five, his mother became ill and could not care for her children. Bertrand and his siblings were placed in a Protestant-run children’s home in regional Queensland and stayed there for two years.
Bertrand said the staff of the home were cruel. He was not allowed to see his siblings, was often beaten for misbehaving and was forced to do manual labour on weekends.
Soon after arriving at the home Bertrand came into contact with Michael Ronald, an employee there. He believes that Ronald was a former resident of the home, who’d returned to work there as a young adult.
Ronald often asked Bertrand to help out with errands on a property opposite the children’s home. Instead, he took him to a small loft on the property where he raped him. This happened on five different occasions.
‘Ronald was huge, over six feet tall and he was strong … I was threatened with physical violence if I did not … submit quietly. I was also threatened with physical violence if I cried.’
He couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse – he was too scared of Ronald. As well, Ronald told him the staff knew about and condoned this behaviour. Bertrand didn’t want to get into trouble so he kept quiet.
When Bertrand was seven, he and his siblings returned home to their parents. He never spoke of the abuse and his siblings never mentioned anything. He never saw Ronald again.
At school, he had difficulty mixing with other students. He got into many fights and he was known to be aggressive. Throughout his primary and high school years, he found it hard to respect his teachers and others in authority.
‘Every time I think about [the abuse] I become very negative, ashamed, degraded. I find it difficult to address everyday routine issues. I feel inadequate and lack self-esteem. I have endeavoured to deal with them by putting them out of my mind.’
In his adult life, he’s had a series of health problems. In the mid-2000s he was referred to a psychiatrist and diagnosed with depression and insomnia. He takes medication to manage these. He regularly sees his counsellor and psychiatrist, and this has provided him with limited benefits.
When Bertrand was in his 60s, he disclosed the details of his abuse to his doctor. He also told his wife. At the time, he and his wife were having marital difficulties.
A few years later, he approached the Queensland government for redress. He didn’t report Ronald to the police because he felt it was too late. He has now told his siblings about the abuse, but he couldn’t tell the rest of his family because he is embarrassed and ashamed about what happened.