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Corey James's story

‘This is a big thing, speaking, and being honest about ... It’s pulled a lot back up for me, which I’ve tried to block out all these years with drug use. Which from my perspective has helped, by using drugs to block it all out.’

After Corey lost his mum at a young age, he began using drugs and committing crimes. In the mid-1990s he was sent to a Brisbane juvenile detention centre.

As soon as he arrived, 13-year-old Corey was subjected to the first of many humiliating and invasive strip searches.

‘They had a small mirror on a rod, and would wave it under my bum and scrotum. If they suspected I had something in my bum I was bent over a bench or made to get down and down on my hands and knees.’

The officers ‘would stick the mirror in my bum, or use their fingers. And say, don’t worry, this is just procedure. So to my understanding at that time it was normal, and it happened to everyone – so I thought, anyway. Yet I feel that they have violated me personally, and I can only class the actions as rape’.

Corey thinks that this kind of search should not be allowed, unless there is a court order and it’s conducted by a medical professional.

One time Corey was punched all the way down the stairs by an officer, and thrown into a dark room. He was left there two or three days, not knowing if it was day or night, and not provided any food or bedding.

‘Every now and then people would come down, like staff. Sometimes they would bring other kids down, and make us perform sexual acts on each other – or for their amusement or sexual gratification, sexual acts on them. And we had no choice in the matter.

‘We had to do what we were told, or else we got bashed, hosed and left there soaking wet in a cold, dark room with nothing. Scared, wondering what’s going to happen next, or if I was ever going to get out of that room. Or if I would ever see my friends or family again.’

One of the kids he was made to perform sexual acts with was a girl about his age, who was a good friend. Corey was also abused in other locations. ‘Things like the sexual acts also happened when I was in normal rooms, which were usually occupied by three to eight other youths.’

There was no point in complaining, as this abuse was perpetrated by, and tolerated by, the officers and other staff.

The abuse Corey experienced during his years in juvenile detention continues to impact his life. ‘I’ve been diagnosed with depression since 2008. And I suffer from like a lack of confidence, and claustrophobia from what happened to me.’

Corey has been incarcerated numerous times as an adult, and spoke to the Commissioner from prison. He has several children, and often stresses to his teenage son that juvenile detention and prison is no life. ‘I want my kids to make something of themselves.’

Although Corey has done some rehabilitation for his drug use, he has not accessed much counselling – and has never told his therapists or doctors about the sexual abuse. Before coming to the Royal Commission, he had not spoken much at all about what was done to him.

‘I had so many mixed emotions overcoming me. And that also lead to me being confused with my sexuality, thinking am I gay, straight, or what? And the shame and disgust within myself ‘cause of what happened. And blaming myself, and thought I deserved it.’

Now, he has a good friend in the same prison, who he has known for many years and can tell about these experiences. ‘I know whatever I say to him stays between us.’

Corey also talked to ‘a few other fellas that I know, that are my mates, that are going through the same thing, speaking to the Commission now’. He did not disclose his own experiences to them, but ‘it’s sort of given me a bit more confidence, seeing my other mates that went through ... I’m not just singled out’.

Although he has never been back to see the detention centre, he thinks doing so might give him some closure. ‘Every now and then I think about just going back, and seeing the room where they used to lock me in. The black room, dark room.’

A few years ago Corey applied to a state redress scheme, but was ruled ineligible because of his age. He feels that receiving some compensation and an apology would make a big difference to his situation now. ‘It would probably help me turn my life around, now that I’m older ... I’m trying to settle down in my life.’

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