Conrad grew up in Queensland in the 1980s and has no idea why his mother had him placed in foster care when he was six or seven. ‘You’d have to ask her that.’
Conrad told the Commissioner that he was sexually abused by the teenage son of his foster parents who ‘did a couple of inappropriate things … to me’. Conrad didn’t report the abuse because, ‘as a child, I guess … I was on a learning path. I didn’t really know that it was wrong at that age’.
After a couple of unsatisfactory foster placements, Conrad was sent to a receiving centre. At 11, he was a lot younger than most of the other children. ‘I don’t think it was a very good environment for me … You sort of grow up … and do what your peers do … which … caused me a lot of drama through my life.’
A worker at the centre began grooming Conrad, taking him on outings and supplying him with cigarettes and other gifts. He then began to sexually abuse Conrad. The worker was ‘always friendly ... His sexual stuff wasn’t in an angry way. It was making you feel good, making you feel wanted’. This went on for 18 months before someone became suspicious, and the police were called.
‘Let’s be honest, I didn’t know that what he was doing was the wrong thing ‘cause I was young and you know, the attention … as a kid that didn’t have much attention, you know what I mean?’ Conrad refused to make a statement to the police, and because he didn’t testify, the man wasn’t convicted.
After this, Conrad was sent to a boys’ home run by the De La Salle Brothers, a ‘very awful place … very violent … I was sexually abused by [Brother Fergus] ... I was physically bashed by foster parents there … I could go on for hours, stuff that happened at that place … I was there for three-and-a-half years. I copped a lot’.
When Fergus discovered that Conrad had ‘leaked that he was doing things to me … [he] paid the boys with … tobacco to have ‘em all bash me in the middle of the courtyard’.
The first cottage parents that Conrad stayed with were very violent and abusive. Conrad told the Commissioner that the Brothers knew about the beatings the boys received from the cottage father, but they did nothing about it.
In a written statement to the Royal Commission, Conrad wrote, ‘The mental and emotional abuse that I suffered contributed to further problems as I grew up … There was never any love or care given … [It] should have been a nurturing place to care for vulnerable boys’.
When Conrad and some other boys ran away because of the beatings, they were always caught and brought back to the home, ‘where we were flogged again’. Conrad remembers the runaways being beaten in the showers after they were brought back on one occasion. ‘We were hurt quite badly, but were offered no medical treatment.’
Conrad said that Fergus hit him ‘on the back of my head, causing me to fall over unconscious. I woke up face down on the floor with [him] on top of me, raping me’. When Conrad ran off ‘with no shorts on and blood running down the back of my legs’, one of the other Brothers placed him in a holding cell for three days, with no clothes, food, water or medical treatment.
Conrad told the Commissioner that doing farm work prevented him from taking his own life while at the boys’ home. The farmer who taught the boys farm skills was a good man, and although he believed Conrad was being abused, he told him, ‘You’re a small boy, and you’re a boy without a home, and they will look at you like that and they’re not going to believe a word you’ve got to say’.
Due to his traumatic childhood, Conrad ‘became a compulsive liar. Always wanting to be something I wasn’t … because I didn’t want people to know the truth. And obviously I would steal to get through if I needed to … Drugs were my saviour … Lying, stealing, being manipulative, being exactly what they were to me, is what I became’.
As an adult, Conrad has attempted to kill himself many times, and has spent time in a mental health unit. Now, he is ‘just trying to put it behind me. There’s just a lot of things in my life that I didn’t understand, why I kept doing the things I did, and it took a lot of counselling to figure out that it was because of what I’d … been through’.
Conrad told the Commissioner that ‘in the last few months, I have decided that I need to make a change and have started to talk about my abuse … I have been living with the memories and pain all my life and I don’t want to live this way anymore. I want to be a better person. I don’t want my children to have the same life as me … to end up in prison’.
Conrad would like all children to know that, ‘if this stuff’s happening to you, you need to speak up. If you’re being violated you don’t deserve it. Nobody deserves it.
'Speak up … I mean, we are in jail. We get brought to justice for what we’ve done. They need to be brought to justice as well. Can’t be a one-way street where we go through it all and then we pay the price for it in the end and they get to stay at home and live their lives’.