Callum grew up with a ‘good mother’, and a dad who was involved in crime and dependent on heroin. His father left before Callum had started school.
From an early age Callum exhibited severe behavioural issues including self-harming, and was prescribed anti-psychotic medication. He thinks his mother was ‘tricked’ into signing him into the care of the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability, after approaching them for help.
When he was five years old he was placed in foster care. His first carer was good but Callum kept running away to try to see his mum. At another placement he was sometimes left unsupervised by his foster mother for hours while she went to play the poker machines, and bullied by other kids in the house. ‘The older kids were watching porn and that in front of me, and encouraging me to watch porn.’
Diagnosed with ADHD Callum was placed in a special school ‘just to reintegrate, I had [to] behave there and reintegrate into a normal school’. After leaving this placement ‘Mum got me back but I fucked up again and then I’ve gone back to residential care at the age of 10’.
His attitude towards the staff there was generally ‘get fucked, you’re not my mum’. He was sexually abused by a worker who digitally penetrated him.
When he was around 12 Callum was sexually abused at another residential care home by Tom, a casual worker, who raped him several times. He remembers Tom as an ‘old fella’ in his 50s, and thinks he was married and also employed as a casual teacher.
By the time he was 14 Callum was using heroin and had contracted hepatitis C. He later progressed to taking methamphetamine and crack cocaine, and was in and out of youth detention.
Although still a ward of the state he received no support when he left the juvenile justice system, and was not given a transition plan to help establish himself as an adult. He has spent time in adult prison for violent and drug-related crimes.
Despite ongoing and multiple significant mental health diagnoses, and being prescribed anti-psychotic and mood stabilising medication, Callum has been rejected for the disability support pension.