Conor was born into a large family, living in a regional town in Queensland. In the late 1960s when he was eight, his mother had a breakdown and his father, unable to care for the children, placed Conor and his siblings into state care.
The first home Conor was placed in was pleasant. He said the nuns took great care of him and his siblings. However, they didn’t stay there long. Conor was upset when he was moved to a Catholic orphanage in a different town.
He was frightened because he believed the orphanage was haunted, and this caused him to frequently wet his bed. The nuns were cruel and often punished the children for the smallest thing. He remembers being flogged repeatedly whenever he wet the bed.
‘I seemed to get a lot of whipping and belting from what I can remember … I didn’t know that was wrong.’
After spending a year at the orphanage, Conor and his siblings were returned to his parents’ home. He was happy to be away from the nuns but his happiness was short-lived. He and his older siblings were picked up by the police, taken to court and sent to a youth hospital in a different town.
Upon his arrival, he was stripped and given new clothes. He was then placed in a very small cell for seven days. Conor recalls not ever seeing daylight before he was released to the ‘communal’ part of the hospital. He and the other residents were given games to play and did not receive education.
‘We just played cards or games, there were some books there. There was a big wall where we were allowed to go outside and they’d give us 10 minutes out in the sun.’
After three months at the youth hospital, Conor was moved to an Anglican boys’ home in a different town. He shared a room with three other boys, which was better than the youth hospital.
Conor came into contact with many workers and was sexually abused three times by one of them. He believes the man could have been a house parent for the dormitory. Conor ran away from the boys’ home each time he was abused but was caught by police and returned, and then belted as punishment.
‘I just wanted to be with my parents.’
When he was picked up for the third time he was sent back to the youth hospital. This time it was different; Conor was put on medication and given electric shock therapy.
He didn’t tell anyone of the sexual or physical abuse. He was scared to speak up, and embarrassed. After several months, he was returned to his parents’ home and made a ward of the state. Despite regularly seeing a social worker, Conor didn’t disclose the details of his abuse.
Throughout his late teens and adulthood, Conor turned to alcohol in an attempt to ease the pain. He believes this caused ‘large gaps’ in his memory. His education had been minimal and that affected his ability to pursue job opportunities. He stated that he doesn't trust people in authority and at various times he’s been involved in minor crimes. He has had panic attacks in the past and is currently taking medication.
In the late 2000s, Conor was referred by his doctor to a psychologist and he then disclosed the abuse. He’d been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and his psychologist suggested that he come to the Royal Commission.
Conor has not reported the worker who abused him to police because he doesn’t know the man’s name, and he also doesn’t trust the police. He's considering applying for compensation.