'The whole thing about child "survivor". I haven't survived. I'm still hurting … It does effect, like, for a long time. Like, I never knew what was wrong with me … Then I start peeling off those layers of the onion and I start realising, like "Far out, man. Like, I wasn't angry. I was just frustrated because I didn't know how to communicate". And I've carried that whole "I don't know how to communicate" through my life.'
Brett grew up in a broken and dysfunctional family. His early life was spent moving around the country. He was always the new kid in school. He did spend time with his grandmother, who was very good to him and 'installed beautiful values', but at the age of 12 he went back to live with his mother.
'I was a young teenager, coming into my teens. I was a bit rebellious and Mum kicked me out of home. Threw everything out on the street. And I just picked it up. And so roaming around for, must have been, a month or so.'
Brett was picked up by police and ended up in a house run by the Baptist Church. Reverend Argyle, then around 40 years old, and his family lived there along with a small group of other children in care. It was the 1980s. For Brett is was meant to be a temporary arrangement until a suitable foster home came up. However, this never happened.
'I remember I was just settling in and I was feeling quite happy and comfortable. Had my own room and, just, it was nice. I was, I guess, moving on. Moving forward. I remember it was around my birthday, my 13th birthday that it started. He [Argyle] started coming into the room at night and I'd already had some sexual abuse and a lot of other physical abuse, psychological abuse from growing up in a broken family, that I just remember being quite terrified. And, yeah, I wasn't really sure of how to take it and what was happening.'
Argyle abused Brett nearly every night for about three months. It started with touching and over time the 'sexual interaction increased'.
'I have a very poor self-esteem, poor self-image of myself. Always have.' However, one day Brett 'decided what was happening was wrong. It was not meant to be. It wasn't meant to be like that at all, because I confused all this stuff in my head, that I deserved it'.
That day he managed to see his caseworker and reported the abuse to her. She believed him and Brett made a statement with the police. 'I went to court and I was cross-examined … It's terrible. I really felt like the perpetrator.'
It was a protracted trial because Argyle's records were difficult to find as he was originally from overseas. 'I was really upset because he got two years probation. Two years probation and a couple of hundred hours community service, I was told, after nine months of court.’
The Baptist Church ostracised Brett and he stopped going there.
In the meantime, Brett's caseworker moved him to a residential facility that was more institutionalised. Again it was supposed to be just for a couple of weeks until she found somewhere else. 'So I always was hoping for this to happen and it was then that I really started to rebel and fight and started stealing things and I started hating the world. I was there for about 18 months I think.'
He ran away several times and would always come back. When he was 14, an offer was made to Brett's mother for him to spend Christmas with her. 'She declined that offer and then I attempted suicide and ended up in … the psych ward in [town].'
After that Brett was put in the care of a relative, which he said wasn't a good decision. As a teenager and into his early 20s, Brett was 'using drugs. I was into prostituting myself. Living hard on the streets'. He spent a few weeks in a juvenile justice facility.
However, he always had a 'pretty conscious self-preservation'. He did an apprenticeship and went back to one of the towns where he grew up. 'Tried to make something of myself, doing art. Had market stalls and stuff like that.'
Brett has had three relationships with women and has had children in each relationship. He was distressed to talk about his unsettled life. 'Couldn't hold a relationship. Couldn't hold a job. Never been able to hold a job. Never been able to hold a relationship. I've always been seeking something. I've always been trying to find what it is that I lost. So I've never been settled.'
In recent years, Brett had one brief stay in an adult prison for breaching a restraining order. He is currently homeless, sleeping at a friend's place. He is on a mental disability pension and going to counselling – the 10 free sessions he receives through Medicare – and has disclosed the abuse to his counsellor.
After attempting suicide in the 2000s, Brett became involved with a men's group which he finds supportive and healing, and in which he has started to take a leadership role. When he is with this community of men, he said 'I'm myself. There's nothing to fear. There's no need to fear'.
After many years estranged, Brett caught up with his mother a few years ago. 'It was nice. It was very good.' However, he finds it difficult to talk to her and their contact is scarce. He has very little contact with his siblings. He does, however, maintain contact with some of his children. One of them tracked him down. 'That's been the highlight of my life.’ He hopes he can see his other children again in the future.
'Thinking about it [the abuse], going back to that time, from here, and moving to it from before it, I think it was definitely a pinnacle, turning-time in my development, both physically and psychologically. And I know that if that abuse hadn't occurred I would have been a completely different person. That hurts. That really hurts knowing that. It's not what I missed out on. It's what I'm not allowed to do because of it.'
Brett has never made a claim against the government. He didn't realise that was possible. He's now aware he could also make a claim against the Baptist Church. However, he recently spoke to police about the familial sexual abuse inflicted on him as a child, and is now waiting to make a formal statement.
When reflecting on what has given him strength in his life he acknowledged his grandmother who gave him a faith. 'My faith and belief in something greater than me, that has been there in my whole life. That's always been there.'
He also acknowledged the men's group. 'That's where I get to give back because … as much of a curse, it [the abuse] is, I've been blessed as well. Very deeply.'