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Calvin James's story

‘I never lived with my mum and dad. My grandparents took me at a young age due to my parents being drug addicts. I lived with my grandparents … from a baby to about 11 years old and then I was put into DOCS care … [Department of Community Services]

‘[My grandparents] were the best. They were like my parents. They did everything for me. They always made me feel welcome … only family I pretty much had.’

Calvin loved school, but he was ‘a troublemaker as well and I ended up in behaviour school. I think I was in Year 4, Year 5’. He was put in the special school for ‘throwing stuff at teachers. Swearing at the teachers. Causing trouble. Fights in the schoolyard and that. All that stupid shit you do as a kid …

‘I had my own psychiatrist at the time, because I’ve got ADHD’. He was also diagnosed with a number of mental health issues as a teenager. After taking himself off his medication because he ‘was abusing drugs really badly’, Calvin is now waiting to see a psychiatrist to get himself re-medicated.

‘A lot of things happened at home that the police were called … and that’s when DOCS got involved … I was fighting with my cousins and that and I wasn’t listening. I was running away from home. I was just … uncontrollable. And then … Nan and Pop had no choice but to give me to DOCS … to handle me.’

Calvin was made a ward of the state in the mid-2000s, when he was 10, and he spent time in a number of refuges in New South Wales. Calvin recalled that the first one was ‘good … Some of the staff members were nice … but I’ve got one bad experience there that will never leave me … The managers were good, and all that, but yeah …

‘It was one of the staff members there at the refuge. He did some bad things … He touched me inappropriately and inserted his penis into my arse … I’d never seen him before. I think he was on night shift … When I got up in the morning, he was gone.’ Calvin believes that the man could have been a contract worker from an agency, which would explain why he never saw him again.

After the abuse, Calvin was threatened. ‘He was saying that he knew where my grandparents lived. If I said anything, he’d hurt my family and he’d come back and hurt me … I told no one … I told my aunty for the first time … about two years ago.’

Calvin said, ‘After the abuse I found a safe haven being in juvenile justice centres. So I got myself locked up every chance I could. Breaching bail. Breaching bonds. Assaulting staff members just to get locked away again …

‘I … used the juvenile justice centres as a safe house … I was always under cameras. You’re never left alone with a staff member … There was always two or more staff members there, and there was other witnesses if something happened … I wanted to feel safe … because I’d always had that in the back of my mind, that he could be just around the corner if I was at a refuge.’

In his mid-teens, Calvin’s grandmother went to the Family Court and gained custody. ‘I never felt more safe in my life that I was back home with my grandparents and yeah, it took a while before I mucked up again.’

When Calvin was arrested for a crime he did not commit he beat the charges, but he is currently in jail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to another crime. He told the Commissioner that, unlike juvenile detention, he doesn’t feel safe in jail. ‘Jail’s a … different [kettle] of fish. You got some serious blokes in here … They don’t mess around.’

Calvin now has a child of his own and he gets ‘really, really upset when I hear about other children getting hurt and women getting hurt in a sexual way. That makes me upset and really makes me angry’.

He’s only spoken about the abuse with three people: his aunt and his caseworker, and the Commissioner.

‘These three times that I’ve said something have been the hardest three times in my life … It’s good. I have to get it out there, you know. You can’t let these people do it to kids anymore. I got my own kid now. I don’t want it to happen to him.’

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