‘I started to get into a bit of trouble, vandalising and stuff … made a state ward or whatever.’ In the early 1960s, Clancy was sent to a youth training centre run by the Salvation Army in Victoria.
Clancy was 14 and to him, it was ‘just a circumstance. You think you’re just being punished and the punishment is whatever is there. But if you don’t accept it, what do you do? What are the options? You either stay and accept it or, like I did, I started escaping and once I started, I didn’t stop’.
While he was in the youth training centre Clancy witnessed and experienced both physical and sexual abuse.
‘When you’re there, you’re just part of it. You don’t know whether they’re doing things right or wrong. You just think this is your punishment. You don’t know.’
Two members of staff were ‘mostly responsible for the abuse’. According to Clancy, one of these men was ‘nothing more than a sexual deviate’ and the other was ‘just a nut case’. ‘How does a person like that get in charge … Someone’s at fault. This is 50-odd years ago. A home for paedophiles. They didn’t even have a word like that. We just thought they were weirdo poofters …
‘There was one kid in particular that was getting badly sexually assaulted and we kind of convinced him to go to [a staff member] … [The officer in charge] then come and dragged everyone out of the breakfast room and abused this kid so badly … Every time he wanted to humiliate someone he’d make you drop your trousers and underpants and point out, “The golden nuggets. Look at the golden nuggets” ... and this kid actually … shit himself.’
Clancy told the Commissioner, ‘I think the night times were the worst … At first you cry yourself to sleep every night. Then you’re afraid to go to sleep, so you try to stay awake all night for fear next minute he’s going to be at your door … So, how can you live like that? It’s just crazy’.
Clancy believes that his experiences at the youth training centre contributed to his diagnosis of trauma-related heart disease at the age of 33. Over half of Clancy’s life has been spent on a disability pension.
‘As a child placed into state care, unable to comprehend the situations, fear then becomes a constant companion. There is no adult to turn to, to alleviate that fear. You’re afraid of government officials. You’re afraid of the police. You’re afraid of religious caretakers. You’re afraid to go to sleep because someone may be coming to abuse you. You become afraid of making any physical contact with anybody.’
Clancy was first sent to adult jail when he was 17, when he was declared a menace to society.
‘You often read about these criminals … they commit murders and stuff like that. Then they start to tell you about what they’ve gone through and stuff, and it’s not until then you realise, they all relate together. Not that the court always takes any notice of that, because you’re responsible for what you’ve done at the time.’
Clancy has tried to tell his wife about the abuse a few times, but ‘people close to you, they don’t want to hear about your pain and so that became … I just didn’t talk about it to her or anyone else’.
After he did ‘something stupid’ a few years ago, he ended up in court and was ordered to undergo counselling. He was put in touch with the support service, Care Leavers Australia Network. He also saw a psychiatrist when he first started having heart problems. Although he found counselling gave him some relief, he stopped going because he felt judged.
Clancy was reluctant to tell his story. ‘I still feel like I don’t want to. It’s like I don’t care any more. It’s too late to … If someone had been there like say, a few years after or something … it might have been all right, but … There’s three groups of people in our social system that should be most trusted … politicians, police and priests … My life experience tells me, “Don’t trust any of them. They’re all liars”.’
Clancy told the Commissioner that no one can tell by looking at him that he has heart problems. ‘Isn’t that the same with this, though? On the outside you behave totally normal. But inside, you’re still carrying that … that boy inside’s still in there, full of anger and frustration and stuff and what do you do with it … You see quite a few that end up in quite a lot of trouble.’
Clancy believes that the state and the Salvation Army are guilty of gross negligence. ‘When the social system becomes your carer and your abuser, the result can never be good.’