‘Every time I get by myself in the car, there’s two of me, like little boys. There’s two of them, one of them saying sort of like, tell it all and the little boy is crying his eyes out and I watch that little boy crying cause he can never tell his parents.’
Carter was born into a large and loving family in Western Australia in the mid-1960s. His mother was part of the Stolen Generation so when his sports coach, Scott Fitzgibbon, hinted that he had connections with the Ku Klux Klan, Carter was scared he’d be hurt if he told anyone that Fitzgibbons was sexually abusing him.
In his private session and in documents submitted to the Royal Commission, Carter described how over a period of months in the late 1970s, he started playing football with a team from the hostel attached to his state school. Fitzgibbons was very friendly towards Carter and gave him money after the games.
‘Starting from the first game, Fitzgibbons would give me money ranging from between $30 and $70 after every football game. This was a lot of money for a kid and I don’t know if other kids got it – and I was told it was a secret – and I know that I thought he was great for giving me this money. But then I didn’t. I was confused and scared.’
After a few occasions of giving money, Fitzgibbons began isolating then 14-year-old Carter and fondling his genitals and masturbating against him. He’d also give him alcohol and ask him to stay the night but Carter’s father wouldn’t let him. Several times Carter would go to the hostel after games and watch television with other boys. One afternoon he was lying on a bed when Fitzgibbons lay down beside him and started dry humping him.
‘In retrospect he must have come, but this is really something I try hard not to think about as I get welled up with feelings of anxiety and fear’, Carter said.
Within a short period of time, Carter’s school grades plummeted. As he went from being a straight-A student and promising sportsman to someone who failed most subjects and smoked and drank a lot, his parents and siblings were perplexed. His early ambition to become a police officer went out the window as he began to build up a charge sheet of petty criminal offences.
At a young age, Carter met a woman who became his partner and they subsequently had three children. In their early years together he wasn’t able to talk about the abuse because he felt ashamed and embarrassed. Problems with intimacy led his partner to believe he was seeing other women and when he did disclose the abuse he still experienced difficulties with intimacy.
Carter told the Commissioner that he often felt anxious and depressed and at times self-harmed. When he had suicidal thoughts he generally went to see the mental health team attached to a nearby hospital. He’d discussed with them the things that triggered memories of the abuse, including seeing men who resembled Fitzgibbons.
‘I can smell him every day. I smell him like, I’m going to that shopping centre down the street or something and I see a bloke with hair like Fitzgibbons – remind me straight away.’
A few years ago, Carter saw media reports about sexual abuse at the hostel by Fitzgibbons. He reported his own experience to Western Australia Police and found they were very helpful as they took down his statement. At the court case that followed, more charges were brought against Fitzgibbons relating to offences against others Carter had known.
‘That was bad to see all my school mates’, Carter said. ‘We didn’t know until we met there at the courthouse.’
Seeing his ex-classmates made Carter think about boys who’d been around at the time he was at school and who’d subsequently taken their own lives. ‘Suicides, yeah, some of my mates, quite a few. Just can’t hack it, can’t take it. Mates I talk to now, my mob, telling which other mates are dead, just can’t take it, eh. They’re good once in a while then all of a sudden when they get quiet and just by themselves and watch on the television or news or something.’
Following the court case in which Fitzgibbons was convicted of numerous sex offences, Carter sought victims of crime compensation and received $20,000 of which $3,500 went in legal fees. An apology by Fitzgibbons for his offences meant nothing to Carter.
‘I am not exaggerating when I say that the assaults on me changed my whole life. I was a happy, healthy, well-adjusted, well-schooled teenager with a supporting family and then my life just changed completely.
‘I can’t get over it and I still think about it all the time. I hope it doesn’t happen to young people, this kind of stuff.’