Clive was placed in an Aboriginal children’s home in regional New South Wales in the late 1960s. He was three years old, and his mother ‘couldn’t care for [him] because she had issues with alcohol’.
Clive wasn’t in the children’s home for long but during his stay he was sexually assaulted three or four times by one of the teenage boys there.
‘I heard him calling me and we went into the [outside] toilet and then he pulled his pants down and … put my hands on his penis and just held my hands there while he masturbated himself, and then he put his hand away, for me to do it myself.’
Clive told the Commissioner that he was soon placed in foster care with a ‘beautiful family’, and he lived with them until he was 15. ‘This family, they were just great you know, but I always felt like I was alone even though they loved me like one of their own and they were just [a] wonderful, wonderful family …
‘I was surrounded by love, but I always felt like I was alone and going to school, all the kids … I didn’t have any friends or anything because I was an Aboriginal and you know, they teased me … I was shunned and things like that.’
He never spoke about his troubles at school to his family because, ‘back then, I was thinking, maybe they don’t know, you know. They might not know that I’m black … so I never brought it up with them because I felt embarrassed and ashamed about that’.
Clive told the Commissioner that he had behavioural problems from an early age. He believes that there’s probably a lot of ‘mitigating circumstances’ that led to him committing crimes and being sent to a number of juvenile detention centres.
‘It was just hard for me to concentrate. My attention span was limited and … in class, ‘cause I was different, I didn’t really engage. I didn’t want to stand out … and you know, tried to keep a low profile, so to speak, and you know … the only kids that accepted me were the kids that didn’t fit in with the norm.’
At the first detention centre, the officers were very violent. Clive recalled being slammed against a wall ‘when I spoke when I shouldn’t have spoke, or something like that … When you stepped out of line, the response was very quick and it was brutal, you know, with a punch in the head or a punch in the stomach.’
At another detention centre, Clive was put into a segregation cell as punishment for fighting. One of the officers came into the cell accompanied by another man. ‘I didn’t recognise the other person and he, the other person, slapped me in the ear … nearly knocked me out.’
The man laid Clive down on the mattress and pulled his pants down. ‘He put Vaseline on his penis and some on my bottom and then he sodomised me … He … brutally sodomised me and then after that he said, “Stop crying or you’ll get a whack in the other ear”.’
After the rape, the officer would ‘say stuff to make me remember it’.
After time in several more juvenile detention centres, Clive ended up in jail and ‘it’s just been in and out, in and out till now’. Most of his crimes have been related to drugs. Clive estimates that, counting the juvenile detention centres, he’s probably spent about 30 years of his life in jail.
Clive hasn’t been able to build close relationships outside jail and believes that the abuse he experienced has had a negative impact on his adult life. ‘I’ve been thinking … because I’ve had some clean time with the drugs, and I’ve done violence prevention and … anger management, ‘cause I was really angry – hated authority, which was detrimental to the way you get employment, like I hated people telling me what to do.
‘I couldn’t cry in front of people and I remember when my foster parents died, I was absolutely devastated … and I went to the funeral and everyone was crying and I just couldn’t cry because, I don’t know, it just wouldn’t happen.’
The last time he was out of prison, life was good for Clive. He completed some TAFE courses and got a job that he loved. ‘I didn’t hate authority anymore and I know how to have a conversation with someone without swearing and stuff like that … It was great. I loved it. And helping people. I was working for a non-profit organisation … and you know, it was great.’
Clive never thought he would return to jail, but a series of health issues led to him using drugs again. ‘I just wanted to stop and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to speak to you guys, like to get it off me chest and, you know, it might be an underlying issue with regards to why I keep going back to the drugs …
‘I’m just glad that I’ve spoken about it and I’ve told someone, because you know, I feel so much better.’