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Clay David's story

Clay was made a state ward in the mid-1970s. ‘I’m not sure how old I was. Mum couldn’t control me I think, or Mum abused me. I’m not too sure.’ He had a number of foster placements, and from the age of nine was placed in a Perth hostel for Aboriginal students.

The government hostel was run by a married couple who had their own children. They forced Clay to drink cough syrup which ‘would make me feel like I was drunk, and then they’d tell me to go out and do crime, break into houses, steal jewellery, money, cigarettes, alcohol’. If he came back empty-handed he would ‘get a bad belting’, and be put in a cupboard without food.

‘The hostel mum ... She used to do rude things to me, and make me do rude things to her.’ Sometimes her husband would watch her sexually abusing him.

Clay did not understand what she was doing to him. ‘I thought it was right, it was okay ... She was telling me she loved me and stuff so I thought that was cool. I didn’t have a real mum to know that that business wasn’t right.’

When Clay was 14 he was placed in supported accommodation provided by the government. A male group worker, Simon, would ‘do rude things to me as well’.

‘I knew it was wrong what he was doing. I woke up one morning with him doing something to me, and asked him not to do it, and he told me to be quiet about it ...

‘He’d produce rude books and try and get me to do things to him and I refused to do that, so he’d do them to me ... I was scared of him ...

‘I’d put my pyjamas on backwards so he couldn’t get to me doodle. And then I’d put my dressing gown on backwards as well, and tie it in a big knot, and I’d lay on my stomach so he couldn’t get to my front. But in the end he just started rolling me over and having his way with me.’

Simon said that if Clay disclosed this abuse he’d tell the people who ran the accommodation that Clay had broken into the office, and then he would be sent to a youth detention centre. At times he ran away and was picked up by police, but he was too scared to tell them what Simon was doing to him.

Clay eventually ran away and moved interstate. He started using drugs and ended up in trouble with the law, and has spent most of his adult life in jail.

‘I know for a fact that if it hadn’t have happened to me I wouldn’t have turned out the way that I have ... I used to go and break the law, steal stuff to give to people to make friends. Because I had a really low self-esteem.

‘I was mixed up, a bit mixed up with sexuality for a bit there, I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know if that was what you’re meant to do to your mum, and stuff like that, I wasn’t too sure.’

In prison he has learned to read and write, and has completed lots of courses and programs. After many years of mostly keeping the abuse to himself Clay saw a specialist sexual assault counsellor, as the memories were becoming intrusive and he was depressed. ‘I was embarrassed about it. But now I’m cool with it, because I was only a kid, I couldn’t help that – what was done to me.’

Clay made an application to the state redress scheme in the 2000s, but did not disclose the full details of his abuse. He was in custody at the time, and was asked questions about the abuse over the phone.

As there were guards present he didn’t want to disclose all of the details, and so answered ‘no’ when asked if the abuse had included penetration. ‘I left a lot of stuff out.’ He was awarded an ex-gratia payment of around $30,000, and was not happy with the process or amount.

At one stage Clay went looking for the couple who ran the hostel but was told they were deceased, and he doesn’t know Simon’s surname. Because of this he has not made a report to police about the abuse.

Clay spoke to the Commissioner in prison. He discussed the adverse impact of being in custody alongside convicted sex offenders, who he thinks receive preferential treatment and protection. Although the counselling has helped him deal with the impact of his abuse, the close proximity of sex offenders is a constant reminder. He’d like to see ‘harsher sentencing’ for people convicted of these crimes, too. ‘I see what they get in here – they get fuck all.’

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