‘Being a kid that was used to violence I used to refuse to break down, cry in front of them or yell, scream … Maybe if I did crack up a coupla times they might’ve just left me alone.’
Chad’s parents were alcoholics and violence was common in his Sydney home in the 1950s. Chad and all his siblings were made state wards and Chad was placed in a state-run children’s home in rural New South Wales. He was six or seven years old.
While in this children’s home Chad required treatment for dry skin, an ailment that affected his genitalia. He was abused a number of times by officers when they were rubbing oil onto his body, including his private parts. ‘They’d grab you in places where you didn’t want anyone to grab you and twist and pull’, Chad told the Commissioner. ‘All I remember seeing was a face in front of you that wasn’t real pretty. It was wrong the way they done it.’
He was also humiliated when the officers made Chad stand naked in front of other children while they laughed at him.
Chad believes the children’s home was run like a strict military establishment and that the punishments handed out were extreme. ‘They’d flog you across the arse with a huge cane, as you come up you’d smash the back of your head open on the chalkboard. I s’pose they’re trying to teach you some behaviour, but it’s going too far.’ Unruly children were placed in the ‘pound’ for up to four days, where they were fed only bread, water and a cup of tea at night.
Chad also suffered with a stutter as a child and was targeted at school. ‘Other kids laughed at me, I retaliated, and then I never went to school again.’ Instead, he was given chores to do all day. Chad was denied a basic education and still struggles with literacy.
Chad’s grandparents removed Chad from the children’s home after two or three years and brought him to live with them. ‘I kept running away from there to go back to the children’s home because the floggings at the children’s home were a little bit less than what I got from grandad.’ He also spent time living with some aunts and uncles.
Eventually Chad’s dysfunctional childhood led to a life of crime starting with a conviction for break and enter when he was still a teenager. He spent time in a boys’ reformatory run by the NSW Welfare Department where he was again physically abused, forced to do hard labour and poorly fed.
Chad developed a short fuse – quick to lash out, he had little respect for authority, especially the police. ‘I am that nervous and jumpy and it’s not because of the person. It’s because of what he’s wearing – a blue colour.’
The impacts of the childhood physical and sexual abuse are numerous: aggression, illiteracy, drug usage, intimacy problems, nightmares, panic attacks, depression, anxiety and welfare dependency. Chad’s adult life has been punctuated with jail time for a variety of stealing offences. Although he has had some counselling through the prison system, Chad believes this has never worked for him.
‘I used to have a dream when I was young and as I grew up about being molested by something, what I don’t know. It went away for a fair while. And then when my brother and sister started talking about all this [the Royal Commission] I got it back.’
Chad admits he is a loner and has only a few friends. However, he has lived with his partner, Margie, for many years. Although there have been problems, the relationship has endured, and now Margie is supporting Chad as he opens up about his past and tries to deal with it.
Chad believes he has mellowed as he gets older, but still regrets the lost opportunities of his life.
‘You weren’t treated correctly. The frustration they took out on me, they would have been better off putting me in a classroom and making me stay there. I’d learn something.’