Bradley John's story

Nearing 50 years old when he spoke to the Royal Commission, Bradley has spent most of his life in institutions: residential care as a child and teenager, psychiatric hospitals, and jail.

Since he first went to jail as an 18-year-old, the longest spell Bradley has had outside the prison system is two-and-a-half years. It was having a partner that made that possible. ‘I was in a relationship with a girl and I wasn’t using any drugs at that time, until we split up, and then I started using again.’

Bradley was only five days old when his mother put him into foster care with distant relatives. She’d had a relationship with another man while her partner was in jail, and Bradley was the result. For a long time, Bradley didn’t realise that the relatives were not his real parents. ‘It was a loving family.’

One day when Bradley got home from school a car full of people he didn’t know was there waiting for him. It was his mother, her partner and Bradley’s half-siblings. ’They took me back. Just threw me in the car and took me from this place where I’d had no problems all me life, you know. They took me back.’

Bradley was about nine when his mother reclaimed him. He spent the next 18 months or so with her in Sydney. She and her partner were both alcoholics. They wanted Bradley to live with them so they’d receive more in government benefits. As the odd one out in the household, he was very badly treated. ‘I kept getting bashed and assaulted.’ He was hit with an iron bar and a cricket bat.

‘I kept running away, trying to go back to me foster family. I’d get picked up by the police or whoever and they’d take me back.’ In the end, a children’s court hearing found him ‘uncontrollable’, and he was put back in the care of his foster parents.

By then, Bradley had been bashed up a lot. He blamed his foster parents for the physical abuse he’d suffered in his mother’s home. ‘I just became bad. I started smashing things.’

When he was 11, Bradley’s foster father died unexpectedly. The sudden loss was traumatic for him. He was diagnosed with acute depression and hospitalised in the children’s ward of a Sydney psychiatric centre.

When he emerged some months later, he was made a state ward. His foster mother was unwell and couldn’t care for him. He was sent to a government-run group home, the first in a series of placements over the next five or so years. Not once while he was there did any government officer come to check up on how he was doing, despite the traumas he’d been through. ‘No counsellors, no nothing. Not once.’

The group home was managed by June and Arthur Winlock. Arthur Winlock sexually abused Bradley. ‘One thing led to another. It started off me playing with him, and then it went to oral sex.’ Over the next year or so there were multiple episodes of abuse, mainly oral sex. Winlock was molesting at least one other boy as well. ‘We eventually ran away.’

As a 16-year-old, Bradley was living in a flat in Sydney when he started abusing drugs and committing serious crimes. He was in jail when he spoke to the Commissioner, and was completing a compulsory program for violent offenders, which included group and individual counselling. In the one-to-one sessions he finally disclosed his sexual abuse. He didn’t talk about it in group sessions, ‘because of embarrassment and that’.

Bradley never reported Arthur Winlock’s abuse, and he has not sought compensation. Arthur Winlock died some years ago.

Bradley believes the sexual abuse has had long-term consequences. ‘It kept me at a distance from people … I haven’t spoken to many people about it.’ His drug use has been a way for him to manage his feelings. ‘Like I said, with me drugs I covered up a lot of things, and that was one way of dealing with it.’

He is now hoping that he’ll get the chance to join a drug program while he’s in jail. ‘I’m just trying to change my drug use.’ Bradley is currently on methadone, so he can stay off heroin. Now he just has to get on top of ‘the benzos’.

Bradley told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’

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