After his mother died in the 1930s, and then his father four years later, Carrick and his three siblings were placed briefly with an aunt before being sent to a Presbyterian orphanage. At nine years of age, Carrick was made a ward of New South Wales, and he remained ‘bonded’ to the state until he turned 21.
Carrick told the Commissioner that children in the home were given chores to do well above their age and ability, and were physically disciplined if they didn’t do them properly. One day he was strapped on the legs until he bled because grass was seen on pavers he was meant to keep clean. The beating, and his crying, coincided with a visit by a prospective adoptive mother who asked him if he wanted to come and live with her. He flung his arms around her legs and said, ‘Yes’. The superintendent of the home witnessed the scene and told Carrick that her application for him had been denied and that she would never be allowed to visit him again.
‘For the whole time I was there … we never had a visitor’, Carrick said. ‘Nobody came. If anybody came to the door to see us, they were turned away.’
Matron Penrose was in charge of the day-to-day running of the home and at night used to sexually abuse boys in their beds. ‘She would come in and kneel beside the bed and the hand would come underneath there and she’d start playing with your genitals. And if anybody protested she’d scream out, “You’re not wetting the bed again are you?”, and that was her excuse. She would say she was feeling to see if you wet the bed.’ If a boy objected, the matron would strip the blanket and sheet off him and ‘give them a belting’.
Carrick said there was a group of eight boys the matron did this to, ‘night after night after night’. The same group would be called by her into the bathroom on Saturdays when other children were out playing and they’d be told to strip naked. ‘We were made to hold our hand out and she would pour kerosene into your hand and you had to wash your genitals with this kerosene.’
The matron used a buckled strap, shaving strop and packing case strap to beat boys. ‘She used to lay into you with one of those and that went on always,’ Carrick said. ‘After that went on you just had to bear and grin it. There was no one to turn to, no one to talk to. Never had a government, semi-government, to come and see you or talk to you. Never.
The whole time we were there nobody ever came to talk to us, see how we were, what we were or anything. Nobody.’
At 14, Carrick was sent to work in the dairy, rising at 4 am and working into the night. Injuries he sustained from the manager’s violence required later surgical intervention and he still bore physical scars and damage.
When he left at 17, Carrick was forced to pay most of his wages to the home until he turned 21. He found out later that both his grandmother and an aunt were paying the equivalent of a third of a man’s wage every week through the years to be put towards Carrick and his siblings’ needs but they never saw any sign of it.
‘Once you’re declared a ward of the state you become a slave in bondage to them and they can do whatever they like to you whether it’s sexual assault, physical assault or psychological, mental. They can do whatever they like to you. In the whole time I was under them, nobody ever came to me. This is perpetrated by all the churches, they’re all doing the same. Now, I say all, there might be one or two exceptions.’
One of his greatest regrets, Carrick said, was that he’d received little to no education, particularly during the years of World War II, when children made way for army personnel. ‘Had I had a decent education I could have done anything’, he said. ‘I always would have liked to have been a doctor. Always. But I never had the opportunity.
‘I would like to ask you that every person going into an institution - there’s not many orphanages left today - but those who go into foster care be interviewed at least every three months. And education, make sure they have a decent education, not like I had. We had nothing.’