Carson became a ward of the state in the early 1980s when he was two years old. He described both his parents as alcoholics, with his father being violent and his mother often neglecting the children.
Until his early teens, Carson lived in a number of foster homes in south-east Queensland.
‘The first two foster homes I had no problems with,’ he said. ‘It was tough discipline – I had to walk to school two and a half kilometres – but it was a caring foster home on a dairy farm where you were a normal kid, where you had the best chance in life.’
But none of the placements were permanent and, around the age of nine, Carson went to live with a third foster family. It was here that he was sexually abused by both his foster father and an older foster brother.
Carson said that the abuse began ‘pretty much straight away’ and happened numerous times in the two years he lived there.
And when he tried to stand up for himself, things only got worse with his foster father. ‘When I started making waves and trouble and complaining and stuff, and threatening to run away … that’s when the physical violence started.
‘He used to beat me up, grab me by the throat, throw me across the table.’
At school, after teachers noticed the bruises, Carson was able to report the abuse and get removed from the home. But his new foster father was also a violent man. Carson recalled being kicked in the head and choked until he lost consciousness.
‘He’d done time in jail, because most foster homes didn’t get criminal background checks, like didn’t go through courses or programs to become foster carers. You went to the office and signed up. You’d get grants, you’d get clothing grants, and most of that didn’t go towards the kids themselves.’
Carson remembered talking to teachers and social workers and even police about the physical abuse, but he always ended up back in the home.
‘I was a 13-year-old kid that was failing school and had no lunches, who didn’t eat for two or three days at a time as punishment, that needed help.
‘I felt betrayed by Family Services, the amount of abuse I went through in both of the two homes.’
When he left the foster system and went to live at a BoysTown home nearby, he suffered more sexual and physical abuse. Carson told the Commissioner that he didn’t want to talk about what happened there but was emphatic that the abuse wasn’t only perpetrated by the De La Salle Brothers. Other adults in the home, staff whose job it was to look after the children, were also guilty.
It was while he was in BoysTown that Carson first began to feel the full weight of the abuse. Over the next few years he found it increasingly hard to cope and, in his early 20s, he believes his deteriorating mental health caused him to commit a serious crime. When he spoke to the Commissioner, Carson had been in prison for over a decade.
‘No one, including the courts, gave a crap that I went through state care. They didn’t give a crap that I went through abuse in foster homes.
‘You treat your people like dogs and animals and that’s exactly what they do, they start biting, becoming animals themselves. I had no chance in life.’
But Carson is trying to give himself a second chance. He takes regular medication for his mental health and has been studying full-time in the hope of going to uni when he gets out.
He’s also working with a law firm, preparing a claim for compensation.
Carson knows he still has a long way to go. But he’s determined to make a better life for himself.