After spending five years in a children’s home in rural New South Wales, Chris and his brother and sisters were returned to their mother. But the reunion was short-lived.
‘As far as I can remember we got out for a couple of months and we ran amok, really’, Chris said. ‘We just played up, done everything, and I don’t think our mother could handle us.’
So in the early 1960s, at age 10, he was moved with his older brother to an Anglican boys’ home in Sydney. He remembers it as a violent place where the woman in charge would often force one of the larger boys to administer beatings to the others as punishment.
The handyman at the home was a young man named Rearden. Chris told the Commissioner how he first came into contact with him.
‘One of the boys – he must have been abused, too – he come down and says, “Do you want to make a bit of extra money, just to clean his room”, and I said, “Okay, yeah” and when I went up there that’s when it started. And of course you didn’t say nothing because that was something you didn’t think to tell anyone at the time … So this went on for about six months and in the finish I said to another young boy there, I said, “Do you want to make some money?”, to get out of it, and he said “Yes”, so that’s the only way I got out of it.’
Rearden warned Chris to keep quiet. ‘He said just don’t say anything because no one will believe you. And of course, being 12, that’s what I thought. I know me brother, he tried to tell me mother – not about me but about him – and she never believed it, so I just thought, “Well, no one’s going to believe this”.’
Chris left the home in his early teens then spent two years living with his mother before he finished school and started working as a shearer.
In his 20s he began to feel the impact of the abuse.
‘I couldn’t talk to people, very scared of being in another room with anyone. Affected my life. But other than that it wasn’t bad, I just couldn’t communicate with anyone. I couldn’t talk to anyone, sort of a loner, I liked being alone.’
Chris got married in his mid-20s but did not mention the abuse to his wife until about eight years ago. It was the first time he had discussed it with anyone. He felt better having opened up about his past but continued to suffer from depression, nightmares and suicidal thoughts.
Chris said he continued to behave like a loner ‘right up until me daughter said that I weren’t affectionate or anything like that, and that hurt me’.
He now rings his daughter every day and dotes on his grandchildren.