Cory is an Aboriginal health worker who has been a drug and alcohol counsellor for many years. Recent problems in his workplace triggered anxiety attacks, he told the Commissioner. Lying down caused him so much pain he spent his nights sitting in a chair.
‘That’s when all this other stuff started coming to me’, he said.
Each night he would go and sit outside in the dark and the cold. ‘I was thinking what happened. It was the only safe place that nothing could hurt me. I’d get the cat, sit it on my lap and I’d just sit there and pat the cat. Just pitch black, just sit out there. I felt safe by myself.’
His wife and daughter would tell him to come inside. Finally he told them what was on his mind. It was the first time he’d spoken about the sexual abuse he suffered at a Baptist-run mission in Western Australia in the early 1960s. He’d felt too much shame to talk about it before, he told the Commissioner.
‘I always, when people like myself have been abused, and you worry what other people think about you in relation [to it] – don’t go near my little kids … I just don’t tell anyone what happened … In my mind they might be thinking, they would be checking me out all the time, see if I’m right, if I’m going to do something stupid, you know.’
Cory was born in Darwin in the early 1950s and as a baby was placed in a home for Aboriginal children. When he was five he was sent to Tasmania to join his younger brother who had been taken there by his adoptive mother, Mrs Pindleton. He doesn’t recall much of the four years he spent there, other than his first encounter with racism.
He was out with his brother one day, he said, poking with a stick at a dead animal in the water. ‘This fellow came along with his two sons, called us coons and bongs. And fuck off and everything else - so we just ran. That’s the first thing of racism I felt in my life. I can always remember that’, he said.
Mrs Pindleton was a missionary, and in the early 1960s she took a job in a mission for Aboriginal children in Western Australia. Cory and his younger brother went with her.
‘And then the things started to happen’, Cory said. ‘Sexual abuse.’
Each week day the kids at the home were taken by bus to the nearby local school. The boys sat up the back of the bus and the girls at the front. Soon after arriving at the home, Cory found himself the target of a bigger boy, Douglas. When the students got on the bus Douglas would grab Cory by the arm and force him to the back. As other bigger boys watched, Douglas pulled down Cory’s trousers and anally raped him. It happened on the way to school and on the way home.
‘I would just have to sit there and take the pain. I couldn’t say anything, couldn’t do anything’, Cory said.
It happened at weekends too. Douglas’s brother, Brian, would find Cory and sexually molest him. ‘It used to happen all the time, all the years.’
Cory didn’t tell anyone about it. Mrs Pinkerton was often angry and would punish the boys by making them drink castor oil. There was no one else he could talk to. ‘When I think about it today, how could we sing out when we had no family there, no cousins, no brothers and sisters apart from me and my little brother?’
When he was in his early teens Cory was sent to a boarding school in Perth. He returned to the home at Christmas and school holidays, and whenever he was there the abuse continued. It only stopped when Cory turned 16 and left the institution for good.
Since telling his wife and daughter his story, Cory has had several sessions with a psychologist. He has shared some things but not all – ‘Tell too much just makes you sick all the time’, he said. ‘Last time I left his office I couldn’t even walk across the road.’
Cory’s younger brother was also abused at the home, Cory believes. He has passed away now. ‘He died from … drug use and alcohol use, he took it another way how he dealt with it, and he took his own life’, Cory said.
‘One thing in my life, I dreamed my mum’s spirit, and Mrs Pindleton’s too, she was good to us in a way, you know, and they keep me strong and I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t touch drugs. I just can’t be bothered. I got enough problems without doing that.’
Cory has not received any compensation for his experiences. He is seeking access to his records and is yet to decide whether to pursue a claim against the home in Western Australia. He would like compensation, or in particular a permanent home.
‘I been moving around that much and never had the chance to buy a house or put money on a house, always uplifting and moving here and taking my wife and kids’, he explained. ‘I would just like to – you don’t want the money, you just want them saying “We’ll get you a house”, and you know that for once in your life it’s yours.’
He would also like to see a memorial at the mission, for all the kids that were abused there, in recognition of the suffering and injustice they experienced. He wants people going past to know everyone there had a story. ‘And not all the stories were the same. Each story is different.’