‘I just remember a lot of drinking. The last thing I remember about going into the foster care was me mum and dad having a fight, and she stabbed him … alcohol-fuelled violence.’
Connor lived with his foster family in Queensland for about 10 years. He was four when he first went there in the mid-1980s. Mr and Mrs Miller were ‘Christian … pretty strict. But they had that loving side of them. The good side of them, which is one of the reasons why I did stay. They had their own kids … so sometimes it felt like … obviously their kids would come first, that was the feeling’.
Mr and Mrs Miller had a large number of foster children, including some of Connor’s siblings and cousins. The Millers’ biological children were not as loving as their parents. ‘The older kids … were racist towards us … In front of their mum and dad they were the good Christian kids, but when they weren’t in front of [them], they were devils and they were very hateful.’
The Millers lived on a farm, so there was plenty of room and they rented out rooms at the back of the farmhouse to an ‘Aboriginal mob that used to come into town from the communities and that’. The foster boys slept in the same area as the visitors’ rooms.
‘One of the fellas that used to stay there, there was a back room … where our showers and toilets are … He just asked me to come in one day to get him a towel and then it just started from there. I was probably about six, maybe … [He] abused me sexually.’
This happened on at least three occasions. Connor tried to avoid him, but sometimes the visitor was able to catch him and hold him down in order to abuse him.
Connor was also sexually abused when he was 10 or 11 by a young woman who was an ex-foster child of the Millers. She had nowhere else to go, so she was staying with the family for a while. She would ‘treat me like a baby. It was as if she were nursing me, comforting me, saying, “This is natural” … Our foster mum actually caught us one time … I think she kicked her out the next day’.
Just before he left the foster home, Connor started running away to his cousin’s house and ‘that’s when I first had the taste of drugs and alcohol’. When he returned to live with his mother, ‘she would just let me do whatever I want, so I’d just wander the streets and I guess that’s where it all started’.
After spending some time in juvenile detention in his late teens, Connor managed to avoid adult jail for a number of years, until his mid-twenties. Since then he has been incarcerated three times.
Connor told the Commissioner, ‘Only recently have I really had the guts to talk about it. Only because I let go of it for a while … I gave up the alcohol for five years. I was off drugs for seven years … and I thought that’s where I’d let it go, but then I was filled with a lot of stress and … I touched that drink again … it’s when it came back …
‘It damaged me sexually. Knowing who I am. Not knowing whether I’m gay or straight. I grew up with that.
I’m still in fear to let people know about it. I’m scared to tell people … I was definitely in my thirties when I first told someone. I’ve seen psychologists and everything over the years. I’ve tried to commit suicide. I’ve been to a few psych wards, a few hospitals.’
Thinking about the abuse he experienced ‘always gave me a headache. You know when you have a bright light in your eyes and it gives you a headache, so you have to close your eyes. Every time I think about it, it’s like that effect on me, and sometimes I gotta close my eyes, because it gives me a real mad headache, and I’ve been suffering that since the time it started, you know’.
Connor has one friend who supports him and visits him in jail. His friend was also sexually abused when he was a child. ‘He was comfortable telling me about his experience, so we both had a cry and we both talked to each other about our experiences and how we managed to get this far in life without hurting ourselves.’
At the end of his session, Connor told the Commissioner, ‘I just wanted to say thank you. This is … I’m amazed at myself for what I’m doing. I’m finally getting stuff off my chest that needed to come off my chest and that, and I’ve told the psychologist lady, thanked her and whatever, and I said, “This is the time to heal”.'