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Craig Donald's story

Craig, a Koori man, was born in country New South Wales in the 1950s. He lived with his parents and many siblings. ‘I used to live up the river. Tin shack.’ In a written statement he provided to the Commission, he recalled, ‘My earliest memories are those of long days spent with friends, brothers and sisters, on the river bank, fishing and swimming’.

Craig’s father was ‘drunk most of the time’ but not violent towards the kids. The family was very poor and couldn’t afford things like toys or shoes.

One day, when Craig was nine years old, he and his cousin, Ted, wagged school and went to the local church hall. There they played with toys and afterwards took a few home. What they stole was valued at eight shillings.

A few days later the police came and took the two boys to the local jail where they stayed for two days and two nights. ‘We cried all night … They used to give us lollies to shut us up.’

Craig and Ted were charged with stealing, made state wards and taken to a boys’ home in Sydney, a long way from where they lived. The staff at this home were violent and cruel. ‘Just come down from the country. Didn’t even know how to use a knife and fork. And get whacked over that.’ Most of the staff were white, and Craig remembers feeling lonely.

Craig recalled, ‘When I was at [the boys’ home] I experienced buggery from multiple staff members … I didn’t even understand what was happening … The sexual abuse mainly occurred at night time in the dormitories. I both experienced abuse and witnessed it. I do not even remember how many times it happened to me, but it happened on multiple occasions’.

Craig didn’t report the abuse because the perpetrators were staff members. ‘I didn’t talk about it with Ted or anyone else. Everyone knew it was happening, but we didn’t talk about it with one another.’

Meanwhile, the fact that two young boys had spent time in jail had become public knowledge and there was a lot of community support to release them back to their families. People sent money to them at the home, but Craig and Ted never received it. ‘They stole off us little fellas.’

Craig and Ted were sent from one children’s home to the next. Craig wasn’t sexually abused at any of the other homes and the last home, which was on a farm, he enjoyed. At 16 he was released and sent back home on the train. Ted, who was one year older, had already been released, but didn’t return to their home town.

‘It was hard returning home though. It was hard because I had been raised as a white fella in the homes.’ Craig was teased by the other kids for speaking differently. He got into a lot of fights. ‘The things they said really hurt me.’

From the time he was 18 Craig has been in and out of jail. Inside he has met many Aboriginal men with stories of abuse similar to his own. In between jail time Craig has done outdoor, seasonal work. But, due to poor health, that’s not possible anymore. He currently lives in Sydney, in public housing, after a long time being homeless.

He smokes dope and drinks beer to dull the memories from the boys’ home. He’s had a number of relationships but feels that, because of the sexual abuse, he can’t show affection. ‘I got a woman, man, but I don’t, I can’t cuddle her.’

Craig catches up with Ted whenever Ted’s in town. He sees him as his brother because they both went through the same ‘shit’. Craig also sees some of his relatives who live in Sydney. Craig’s in contact with the legal service, knowmore, and is intending to seek compensation.

Craig told the Commissioner, ‘They won’t break me. They tried to break me, but they won’t. I have too much to lose now with all of my grandkids’.

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