Boyd came from a large family in regional Queensland, but was made a state ward after his parents separated, and sent to a children’s home. In the late 1960s, when he was four years old, he and his sister were fostered by Joseph and Lara Hammond.
Joseph began sexually abusing Boyd when he was seven. The abuse often took place under the house, where Boyd spent time playing with his model trains. Joseph ‘would come downstairs and bribe me with bits and pieces for my train sets to shut me up. He would touch me, and expected me to touch him and play with him.
‘He would also molest me when I was alone in the house and my foster mum would be out. It got to the point that by 14 I had enough, and threatened him that if he didn’t stop I would tell my foster mum.’ Boyd now suspects Lara may have known about the abuse anyway.
One of the Hammond’s sons, Wayne, sexually abused Boyd a number of times too. Wayne was the black sheep of the family, and often in trouble with the police. He was usually heavily drug affected when he molested Boyd.
Lara wouldn’t let Boyd have any contact with his biological mother, who he later discovered made numerous attempts to speak with him. One time, when he was six, Boyd answered the phone and started chatting to the lady on the line. ‘I said, “Who is this?”, and she said, “Oh, this is your mother”. And this was long before I was actually told that I was fostered – I thought this woman was playing a prank. I was very, very confused.’ When he questioned Lara about what this woman had said, she told him he did not need to know any more.
‘I was confused about my family situation ... I called my foster parents “Mum” and “Dad”, but kids at school would say I didn’t have a family ... At the time I didn’t understand what they meant.’
The Hammonds did not tell Boyd outright that he was fostered until he was nine.
Welfare workers used to visit and would speak with Boyd, but the couple would always be within earshot. ‘I remember Joseph was there every time they came. While he wasn’t usually physically violent at other times, he would threaten me before they came with the belt or a punch.’
Boyd was also scared of losing the only family he knew. ‘I didn’t tell anyone about the abuse while it was happening, and until I was much older. I was too confused and terrified. I always wanted to feel like part of the Hammond family, and was afraid of what would happen if I told anyone.’
After Boyd left the Hammonds’ home, he spoke to a nun who had been involved with him before he was fostered. The Sister gave him information about his biological family, and told him his mother had wanted him back so would not allow the Hammonds to adopt him. ‘I didn’t know she cared about us at all. I feel angry and upset that I never got to meet her.’ When he told the nun about the sexual abuse, she advised him to go to the police, but he was too afraid to do so.
When Boyd was in his 30s, he found out that Joseph had died. He wrote to Lara and told her that Joseph had sexually abused him for seven years. ‘Since then, the whole Hammond family has wiped me.’
Boyd describes the impact of the sexual abuse as lifelong. He has contemplated suicide, abused alcohol and drugs, and has trust issues. ‘While growing up I was always wondering what I was doing wrong, and I kept the abuse bottled up ... I was also worried I might become gay, until my first girlfriend reassured me I wasn’t.’ He is receiving counselling through a support organisation, and ‘I am determined to keep going. I’m not going to have trash pull me down’.
Neither the Hammonds nor the Department of Community Services ‘focused on my education, or getting me more qualifications, into an apprenticeship or paid work’. This has caused him trouble with maintaining employment throughout his life, and meant he could not get into his chosen line of work.
Boyd received a small amount of money through a state redress scheme, and is seeking legal advice about other compensation options. He was satisfied with the redress process, but even the basic payment he was given meant Centrelink stopped his benefits for a while.
‘I’ll never ever get away from the government. They’ll always be there, looking over my shoulder.’
Being awarded a larger amount of compensation would have helped make up for his lost opportunities, by getting him a car and a house deposit. ‘I’d like to sit with a pollie and explain what happened to many of us, and how the “other half” live. For them to understand how much we are struggling ...
‘All we want is closure. Maybe for some a bit of compensation, especially for those who suffered badly in a home. Something to make up for their loss. The government can afford to look after people who’ve suffered.’