In the 1960s Clive was taken from his family and placed in a boys’ home run by the Salvation Army. He was 11 years old. ‘It was so-called “protective custody”,’ Clive tells the Commissioner. ‘Which makes me smile a lot now. Protection from what?’
Clive was sexually abused regularly by one of the supervisors, Donald Beecham, whose bedroom was an alcove adjoining the boys’ dormitory. Beecham first assaulted Clive when the boy was sick and lying alone in his bed. ‘Beecham asked me if I wanted to borrow his transistor radio. … He said to me that I would have to do something for him first.’ Beecham reached under the blankets and fondled Clive’s penis.
The assaults continued for several days and escalated. One morning Beecham straddled Clive on the bed and masturbated himself to orgasm.
Although Clive was a ward of the state at the time, he remembers only one visit from a welfare officer in his four years at the boys’ home. Clive says he would never have reported anything to an outsider at the time. Saying anything to anyone was a risk. ‘Some of the kids got belted for reporting. “Can’t talk about him like that. He’s a good guy”. Whack!’
Beecham also controlled the shower block and the order in which the boys showered. Beecham would sometimes contrive to keep Clive back until the others had left. Naked and alone, Clive was fondled repeatedly there, more times than he can remember.
‘I certainly wasn’t the first one. It was common knowledge among the boys, what he was doing.’ Eventually another boy approached Clive about Beecham and asked him if he wanted to ‘dob him in’. Clive agreed and the boy made a report to the brigadier who ran the home. Clive was called to the brigadier’s office and asked about the events.
‘I was ashamed and embarrassed … I just confirmed the molestation had occurred and I couldn’t go into details.’
Later Clive was told that when Beecham was confronted about the abuse by the brigadier he refused to comment. He packed up his possessions and left. The Salvation Army did not report Beecham to the police.
They did tell Clive’s mother. Her response at the time still makes Clive angry and distressed. ‘She turned around and she said to me, “What are you worried about? He’s only playing with your little dickie”. And this is coming from my own fucking mother.’
Nearly 40 years later, Clive sat in a police station and made a statement detailing what Donald Beecham had done to him. Clive commends the police for the help they gave him. The police investigated and were able to tell him Beecham was dead. ‘I told them, I’m disappointed that he’s dead. I’d like to see the bastard cop his right whack.’
Clive believes there were several other child abusers at the boys’ home. There was also a culture of violence at the place. Clive escaped by leaving school at 15 and seeking work. ‘I could’ve kept going. … But no. Anything to get out of that place.’
The abuse has haunted Clive. He was rebellious as a youth, and suffered depression. ‘You think you’re getting over it and it comes back.’
He also suffered physical impacts. In a written statement Clive explained how, some years after the abuse, he discovered that he had latent syphilis. At the time of the diagnosis he had only had one sexual partner and, as he was told he had contracted the disease some time ago, he believed that Beecham was the source of the disease. Clive recalled that while at the boys’ home, he was taken to hospital after developing a rash, which staff were worried could be ‘something more sinister’.
Clive feels lucky he was able to start an apprenticeship in his teens and was taken in by a large family.
‘They treated me like one of the family, which I’d never had before … They taught me what life is all about.’
Clive worked hard to put the abuse behind him. His life has not been easy, but he has had success in marriage with his cherished wife of 40 years. Clive and his wife have had children of their own. Determined to keep the past in the past, Clive kept his abuse a secret from them all until the time of his interview with the police later in life.
He’s glad his family know his story now, but he would prefer to forget. He is upset easily when abuse issues surface in the media.
Clive welcomes the work of the Royal Commission and the changes he hopes will protect children in the future. ‘Institutions in those days were just kid farms, they attracted paedophiles … Things can still happen but the temptation, the opportunity has gone already.’