Colin’s family migrated to Australia in the late 1960s and settled in Western Australia. His mother was an alcoholic, which made home life difficult for Colin and his siblings.
When he was 10 Colin ‘started getting into a bit of trouble with kids at school and all that and … was made a ward of the state after some time, and I ended up going to [a] detention centre … It was quite scary but I knew a few boys in there’. The only major incident Colin recalls from this centre was that he was accidentally scalded by boiling water when the boys were cleaning the kitchen.
After a while, Colin was transferred to a reformatory, ‘up in the hills, a farm’. Colin told the Commissioner, ‘It was a boot camp, and when I first got there I loved it. It was great and I started going to school … because I was always truanting at school’.
Colin was excited when one of his teachers offered to take him and two other boys canoeing. On the first trip, everything was fine. ‘We had a ball … We had fun. It was great.’ Colin now realises that Mr Roland was grooming him on that first trip. On the way to the river he took the three boys to his house and introduced them to his wife. ‘He come across as nice.’
The second time they went canoeing, Mr Roland sent the other two boys off in a different direction and told them what time to be back. When Mr Roland and Colin were paddling down the river, he told Colin that ‘he wanted to have a pee … and that’s when it all started’.
While on the river bank, ‘he called me, and he was stark naked. Just standing there … It was a shock. I hadn’t even seen me own father like that’. This was the first of at least three times that Mr Roland raped Colin.
After the final trip, Mr Roland took Colin for a short visit with his mother and father and when he returned to pick him up, he said, ‘Well, I know where you live now’. With this veiled threat, ‘I started panicking … I started running away … every chance I had … I would’.
Colin was punished for running away by being locked in his cell or losing privileges. He told the Commissioner, ‘I understand all the punishment … for running away. They had to do something. I accepted that but I don’t accept the reasons why I was running away … I just had to get out of there. I’d just run and run and run and run and get taken back and taken back and taken back’.
There were two older staff members, both cooks, in whom Colin remembers confiding. When Colin told them why he kept running away they offered to provide him with a packed lunch. ‘They were nice people.’ Despite Colin reporting the abuse to them, no action was taken.
The boys were all aware of what was going on. ‘No one liked him. I think the other staff would have had to have known because kids weren’t the same … When I first got there, everyone was happy but this teacher wasn’t there … When he come, everyone was completely different.’ If new boys mentioned that they’d like to go canoeing, Colin and the other boys would say, ‘No, you wouldn’t like it’.
Colin left the reformatory when he was about 12 or 13, and after that ‘I was just a downhill spiral … I caused so much shit for my mother and father … Alcohol was a big factor … When I came into high school, after all this happened, I used to always be drunk. I wouldn’t go to school unless I was drunk’.
Colin told the Commissioner that ‘I’d get pissed for the sake of getting pissed … It caused an awful lot of problems for me and I just loved the alcohol. That was my way out of it … big, tough … but at the end of the day, it makes you feel stupid … I done so much hurt to my mum and dad. Now they’re not here, I can’t say sorry, take it back’.
Colin has a lengthy criminal history and has spent much of his adult life in jail. He has no support outside of prison. During his current stay, ‘I haven’t had a visit since I’ve been in here … Don’t see family, friends … I’ve just gotta live day by day in here and I’ve got quite a while to go but now this’s all been brought up, you know, I’m on … anti-depressants. I’ve done self-harm and all that. I can still picture him and smell him … Evil man’.
Colin has been seeing a counsellor, through Relationships Australia, and has been finding this beneficial. Although he has trust issues, he trusts his counsellor and has developed a good relationship with him. He has also begun helping some of the younger inmates ‘with parole plans and getting on their feet’.
Colin told the Commissioner that ‘what would help me now … I just want to put all this behind me. It’s going to be hard, I know that’.