‘The biggest fuck-up with my life, to start with, was my placement. You took a kid who’d never done a thing wrong, who didn’t even know what wrong was … I was eager to please. I had a big heart ... Everybody else there was sent there for doing wrong. So I stood out … from the get-go. I should have been put in a place with other kids in similar circumstances.’
In the late 1960s, when Bradley’s parents died, he was made a ward of the state in Victoria and sent to a children’s home. He was then sent to live with relatives.
‘I turned five and started school and I was being blamed for my parents’ death by them and I was being severely flogged pretty much daily under their care, so that followed through to school, so I never learnt nothing … I was just branded a troublemaker and … halfway through Year 2, that’s when I was taken to the institution.’
Bradley was told that he went to the institution ‘because of how evil and stuff that I was. I later found out I was taken by the services for child abuse, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was led to believe it was my fault’.
Bradley’s relatives told him he was going somewhere like a school camp. ‘They just dropped me off out the front and pointed me in the right direction.’
Bradley told the Commissioner, ‘I never went to school. [The youth training centre] was my primary school. [The juvenile detention centre] was my high school, and at 16, I was a fast graduate. I went to college, the “Bluestone College of Knowledge” they call it … prison … and I was there from 16 to 20 …
‘I didn’t fuck up in society to be sentenced there. I just got transferred from one place to the next, and that’s where I ended up.’
Bradley was six or seven when he went to the youth training centre and ‘my abuse at that institution started the very first night there’. He was sexually abused by two older boys aged about 16 or 17, and the abuse only stopped when two brothers who knew Bradley’s family came to the training centre and began protecting him. Bradley was also sexually abused by a staff member at the centre.
When Bradly was admitted to hospital with an anal injury as a result of the sexual abuse, staff at the centre told the hospital staff that Bradly had suffered an accident on the trampoline.
‘I can remember, at the age of nine years, feeling that I had endured enough physical and sexual assault. I walked to the main office and asked the person on the desk if I could go home. This person replied, “Mate, you don’t go home from this place”. It was [then] that I decided that I would run away.’
Bradley was sent to a juvenile detention centre for a few short stays when he was 12 or 13 because he kept running away. At 14 he was sent there permanently. During his time at both institutions he ran away more than 60 times.
‘Nobody looked into why a kid would choose the streets as a safer option … Even when I got sentenced to prison … and I sat down with the Minister of Corrections at the time … [who] asked me what [I wanted] to do … I chose prison as the safest option.’
When Bradley tried to tell his case manager at the youth training centre about the abuse, nothing was done. Later, when he was on the streets he tried to tell a police officer, but he wasn’t taken seriously, and once again, no action was taken.
Bradley told the Commissioner, ‘I became pretty violent. I was a very angry person … Violence was something I became very good at. I’m ashamed to say that but … it was the only way I could survive’. Bradley has been in and out of jail. He has had problems with drug abuse, and suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
‘My biggest problem in life was I had this void in my head. I never had the connections from the touching, the loving, none of that …’ It was only when he had his first child that things changed for Bradley.
‘Once I had a baby in my arms, I realised that it was the one thing that I could never steal or buy, and that was family and love, and that’s all I ever wanted. That’s all I ever wanted.’
Bradley’s ex-wife accompanied him to his private session at the Royal Commission and presented a written statement. She wrote, ‘I believe the abuse, mistreatment and neglect that Bradley suffered as a child … caused irreparable damage to him … Who knows what the potential of any person is …
‘Can any of us understand the real psychological damage caused by being repeatedly abused by the people entrusted to take care of you … to be orphaned … and then be all alone and left in an institution where you are treated terribly, abused and made to feel worthless, and then try and fit into society, to live a normal life, when you don’t even know what that even means?’
Bradley told the Commissioner, ‘To tell you the truth, I’m just glad that I had this platform to be able to do it … Since I’ve known the date, it’s been the most soundest I’ve slept … out of my whole life. So I’m ready …
‘The main thing I want out of this is the acknowledgement that mistakes were made, and if I can be given a guarantee that those mistakes won’t be made again to children in the future, then my life hasn’t been wasted … And that’s all I ask.’