Even at a young age Brennan ‘was always taking off from home, getting in trouble, living on the streets and stuff’. He was diagnosed with ADHD in early primary school, and given medication until he was 18. ‘I don’t think it helped at all really, probably made things worse, I reckon’.
He’d deliberately miss taking his medication, which meant his behaviour would deteriorate and ‘by the end of the day I’d be in the principal’s office’. Staff at the school ‘didn’t know how to deal with me, and they was locking me in a back room ... and putting headphones on me and stuff, so I couldn’t hear or anything when I played up and that. And then my parents took me out of that school’.
Next, Brennan attended a ‘special school’ which he liked, before moving around a number of high schools. At the age of 14 he got into trouble for ‘stealing cars and breaking into places’, and was sent to a government reception centre. There were no toilets in the cells, and sometimes the boys would be locked in for long periods of time. Guards would often not come to get them when they needed a toilet, so they’d be left to ‘wet the bed’ or ‘do what we’ve got to do in our cell’.
One of the guards sexually abused him on four occasions, touching Brennan and making Brennan touch him. ‘Sometimes at night, or we’d be taken out the back to a music room and like offered cigarettes and stuff.’ This guard also abused Brennan’s closest friend.
Brennan did not feel he could tell anybody about this abuse. ‘The way I felt is that, to speak out, I was going to be punished more than I already was being.’
He later spent years in a training centre for older youths, but was not sexually abused there. As an adult he misused drugs and alcohol, and committed property and violence offences. Having constantly been ‘in and out of jail’, he has only ever worked for a short while.
It wasn’t until very recently that Brennan told anyone about being sexually abused, when he disclosed to a legal representative who visited the prison he’s in. He is now receiving assistance from an Aboriginal support organisation, and is considering his legal options. Never having had any counselling, the idea of it makes him a ‘little bit uneasy, it’s difficult’.
Still, he thinks it’s good to talk about his experiences, and not only for his own sake. ‘Some of us that can try and talk about it – [it] might be hard but it may prevent things happening in the future. There’s got to be some way that things can be monitored so it doesn’t happen.’
Brennan told the Commissioner that his time in institutions ‘ruined my life, I reckon. The only way I can deal with it outside of prison is basically I’ve just used drugs or alcohol to block thoughts and feelings, and yeah, I’ve just basically neglected myself ever since, and haven’t been able to sort of get my act together’.