The clothing provided to the children at the Aboriginal mission was completely inadequate – no jumpers, no underwear. They would freeze during the winter months, in the south of Western Australia. ‘We had to stand in cow poo, to keep our feet warm,’ says Blake William. If they wet the bed, they were strapped by the Protestant missionaries and given an icy cold shower.
Blake was 10 when he was taken into state care in the mid 1960s. He had been separated from his siblings by the time he reached the mission.
‘Used to cry, cry all the time, cry for my mother and father. Way out in the world, you don’t know where you are.’ Nobody ever came to visit him at the mission, not his family nor anyone from welfare.
The kids all had chores to do, including hard manual labour. Blake didn’t get much schooling, and still has trouble with reading and writing. He was made to work in the dairy with some other boys. One Sunday he finishing milking the cows, when he realised the other boys had left.
It is still very hard for Blake to describe what happened next. The missionary in charge of the dairy came into the area where he was working, and pushed him over some bales. ‘He grabbed me, pulled my pants down and raped me.’
The next morning, ‘on the way to breakfast, the same missionary grabbed me and threw me to the ground. To protect myself, I used a rock to hit him, and I was able to stop the attack’.
Blake did not go back to the dairy and changed jobs. He didn’t tell the other kids what the missionary had done, as he didn’t want them to tease him. ‘I kept it all to myself.’
When he was 12, he decided to run away with another boy. Both wanted to locate their parents again. They made it to a small town, where Blake found a lift into the city. He walked from here to his parents’ place, but when his family was evicted he became homeless.
For the next five years, Blake lived on the streets with a group of other Aboriginal kids. They stole whatever they needed to survive, and stayed in abandoned houses, under bridges, and anywhere else they could find shelter.
Blake started drinking at this time and became a very heavy imbiber. ‘I drank to try to handle the terrible things that happened to me.’ The doctors told him he needed to stop drinking, but he continued for many years, even when he had extensive organ damage. Eventually he needed both a liver and kidney transplant because of his alcohol abuse.
When the Western Australian redress scheme was set up, Blake applied for compensation. However, because he did not reveal the full story of his sexual abuse, the amount he received was low.
Blake has never contemplated reporting the abuse to police, or telling anyone from the mission what happened to him there. It is only recently that Blake has told someone at an Aboriginal support service about the sexual abuse.
Around a year ago, Blake visited the mission. ‘I’ve been back there for healing powers. I did a dust healing, went back. It does help, of course, brings a lot of memories back, but you know ... Went down to the dairy, but didn’t stay there long.’
Blake has had a ‘tough life’. Not having parental role models to follow for much of his childhood affected the way he raised his own kids. He recognises that he was not the best dad, largely because of his alcohol abuse.
Addiction has been a big part of his kids’ lives too, with one child dying from a drug overdose. His daughter still has issues with substance use, and because of this Blake and his partner look after her kids. It's hard work and, as they get older, they're getting tired.
Blake knows that his drinking had reached a life-threatening stage, and that he has survived so long only because of extreme medical intervention. He gave up drinking after his transplant operation; his doctor told him that otherwise he would die. ‘I really thought about it. I want to live, see my grandkids.’
Nowadays, Blake tries to help children in the community, and has ‘got a little dance group ... try to help those kids, who’re not going to school’. Still, the abuse ‘remains with me to this day. I believe I will never be able to move on from what happened to me’.