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Brant Joe's story

‘“The sex that you and [the refuge worker] had, that was love. He loves you, he cares for you. Don’t you understand that?” … They made me believe I was overreacting.’

From a young age, Brant was forced to touch other children in front of his father. His father had a friend, Morris Kendrick, who often brought his own children to the family home. Brant didn’t like being at home, especially when Kendrick was around.

In the early 1970s, when Brant was seven, his father was sent to jail. He and his siblings were left with their mother who was a violent drug addict. However, the Department of Family and Community services intervened and placed Brant in an orphanage.

For two years he was moved from one Sydney orphanage to another until his father was released and brought him back home. However, family life had not improved and his parents divorced.

‘My mum had stopped the heroin but her alcoholism and partying had increased heavily … My mother … dragged me down a lounge room and I had carpet burn all over me. She tried to chop my fingers off.’

Brant was being physically abused so often, he regularly didn’t come home after school. He was caught by the police several times and charged as ‘uncontrollable’. He spent many months going back and forth between his mother’s home and institutions.

After a while he was moved into his father’s care. One night, Brant was raped by Morris Kendrick. He remembers waking up in pain, and being horrified when he saw ‘stuff’ coming out of him after the rape.

‘That’s one of the ones I get the most dreams about, but they are very distorted. It’s horrible. I hate it.’

Brant wanted to tell his father, but he knew what would happen. His mother always threatened to send him back to the home, and he guessed his father would do the same. Plus, because Kendrick was a family friend, Brant didn’t think his dad would believe him. He ran away, but was caught by the police and sent to another orphanage.

‘It’s really odd to say that I really hated my mum and dad as a kid, but being in the homes, all I ever wanted to do was to come back home. I wanted to be with my brothers and sisters.’

By the time Brant was in his early teens, he’d had enough of being moved between homes and his parents. He went to the department and told his caseworker what was happening at home, and that he was sick of being beaten. ‘So can you find me somewhere to go?’ Brant asked.

He got his wish; Brant went to live with the Allens in a foster home placement. The Allens fostered many children, and also lived with two older men, Gordon and Mike. The other kids warned Brant about Mike, but it was Gordon who targeted him.

‘I was on the bottom bunk … I woke up in the middle of the night … he was giving me oral sex.’

Brant reported the abuse to the Allens who moved him to a different bedroom. However, Gordon remained in the home, and Brant lost count of how many times the man pursued him.

In the early 80s, Brant’s mother met another man and decided to move interstate ‘for a fresh start’. Brant left the Allens but didn’t stay with his mother for long.

After being physically abused by his mother’s boyfriend, the police intervened and sent Brant to live with his father who didn’t want him. Brant didn’t know what to do. He had no money and no place to stay. He went to the Allens but he wasn’t welcome.

Brant was then taken to a youth hostel, where the other residents were tough and a lot older. During the day he roamed the streets and befriended other homeless kids. He also met Kevin Smart, who ran the local children’s refuge. Brant was convinced to move in.

‘This is the part that’s hard for me: I carried the guilt of all my mates [who] followed … I didn’t know what I was bringing them into. What I had brought them into was a very well organised group of paedophiles.’

The refuge workers bought the kids alcohol and drugs, and let them do whatever they liked. All the kids felt comfortable around the workers because they were being paid. However, it was for sexual favours.

Brant was raped by two different refuge workers. He tried to report the abuse to Kevin Smart, but nothing was done. Brant was brought into the inner circle and learned who was abusing who. To cope, he turned to drugs and alcohol. He stayed at the refuge and accepted payments from older men for sex.

Two years later Brant had had enough and went to the police. The refuge was closed down soon after.

In his 30s, Brant reported the refuge workers and Morris Kendrick to the police. He was then involved in a long series of investigations, and some of the workers were charged for their crimes.

Brant spent many years blaming himself for how his friends from the refuge were affected. He has no education, which has made working full time hard, and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He often has intense flashbacks.

Brant came to the Royal Commission to share his story and be heard. He also came on behalf of his friends who couldn’t, and he expressed his gratitude for being respected. For the first time, he felt relieved.

‘For me today it’s about the final closure, because for so long I have carried this weight on my shoulders, like it’s my responsibility. I can’t hold it anymore. I’m passing on the baton.’

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