In the early 1950s, when Burt was still a toddler, his father deserted the family and his mum was forced to find work. When she could no longer look after him and his younger brother, they were put into state care.
Burt lived in several institutions, and at the age of eight was sent to an Anglican orphanage just outside Perth. His brother went there too but they were placed in different sections by age, and contact between siblings was not encouraged.
The superintendent of the home, Mr Funnell, would summon Burt into his office and sexually abuse him. This abuse happened when Burt was made to remove his pants and bend over the desk, after which Mr Funnell would cane him on his bare buttocks.
Burt also experienced physical abuse from the sports teacher, who regularly punched the boys. This man was so vicious that Burt and other boys would self-harm to avoid having to go to the gym.
Being so unhappy at the home, Burt would often run away, only to be returned to the orphanage by police or his mother. Even though it was clear that he did not want to return, he did not feel able to disclose his abuse. ‘I just kept it all to myself all of the time, ‘cause it wasn’t really a thing you talked about.’
Eventually Burt was sent back to live with his mother when he was around 12 years old. He did a year of high school then began working. ‘I’d never accept authority, you know ... So I was always in the shit, with the coppers and whatever else, and did a lot of jail time.’
Burt married and had children, but his alcoholism, problems with intimacy, and criminal behaviour resulted in his marriage breaking down. He ended up living for many years with his brother, also an alcoholic, until he passed away. They did not ever speak about their time at the home.
It was not until he contacted the Royal Commission that Burt had ever discussed the abuse. He has never had any counselling, and is not interested in doing so. ‘It doesn’t worry me. I just carry on ... At the moment, you know, it’s there but it’s not there. It’s behind me. I want to go forward, not backward ... That’s just the way that I’m looking at it now.’