'Institutionalisation of children – there has to be a better way of nurturing and protecting kids.'
Bobby and his large family lived in a camp on an Aboriginal mission in regional Queensland. In the mid to late 1960s, when Bobby was three or four years old, his parents split up and Bobby, along with some of his siblings, were moved to the dormitory section of the mission.
His mother left the area and he didn't see her again for about six years. He later found out that the reason they were sent to the 'dorms' in the first place, was because the council told his father it was inappropriate for a man to be rearing kids.
The children were locked in. Bobby lost touch with his family. He doesn't know what happened to his father. Life in the dorms involved constant chores, beatings and regular church services.
'I suppose that there was a lot of talk about love and compassion and there was very little of any of that.'
On three or four occasions, Bobby was pulled from his bed at night by older boys in their mid-teens and sexually abused by them. The abuse involved fondling and penetration. Another boy would abuse Bobby in Bobby's bed. This boy was his own cousin. On one occasion his cousin offered him a dollar if he didn't tell anyone. 'I didn't know what to do or how to react.'
'I was feeling vulnerable and stuff … I didn't feel protected at all.' Bobby felt abandoned by family and community. 'I felt really abandoned especially by the people that were supposed to be the protectors of the people that were … Aboriginal. They didn't do their jobs.'
When Bobby was 10 his mother got him and his brothers out of the dorms but the new family relationships were strained. 'Didn't get any affection from our mother that the rest of the family got.'
Bobby didn't tell anyone about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. 'In my teens till my early 20s I pushed a lot of it into the back of my memory.' When he got the chance to leave home he got work that took him around the country. 'So I moved regular … I just cruised, you know, and just enjoyed everything.'
'I cruised through, but what I can say is, I went through strong periods of depression … I would go through months of depression. I never understood why.'
Bobby became a father in his mid-20s. 'When I first found out my girlfriend was pregnant I wasn't too happy because I didn't want a child. Because of my own experience I didn't want to have a child and put them through the stuff that I'd been through.'
When the relationship ended Bobby became estranged from his son. 'It wasn't until my late 30s … that I started to work on that relationship-building with my son. And that’s when things started to come back to me. 'Cause I started to question myself. "Why am I like this? Why has it taken me this long to come this far?" And that’s when the memories started coming back.'
Bobby didn't seek counselling and prefers not to, to this day. 'Confident I can ride it through but you can never tell with these things. You can have a meltdown at any moment.'
He said that all his relationships have been greatly affected by his childhood abuse. He can't talk openly with his family members. His relationship with his son's mother ended because of it. 'I feel really terrible for her, she was a lovely person. But it just didn't work because of the things that happened and the way things turned out.' Bobby also has trust issues. 'Big time.'
He never went to the police 'basically because by the time I realised the importance … the only perpetrator that I could remember [cousin] had passed away. So I thought, "Don't waste my time" or "Just let it be". But it doesn't stop there, you know … The impacts don't stop. Or the aftermath'.
He went through the Queensland redress scheme and received the minimum $7,000. To be awarded more he needed to write a victim impact statement but he wasn't ready to go through that trauma. 'And it opened a lot of old wounds for me that I haven't been able to close up yet.'
Speaking to the Commissioner was the first time Bobby had told anyone about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child.
'I think it's time for me to now just get it out there and to let go of it.'