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Craig Peter's story

‘In my head, to get around what happened to me I asked the question to myself: “Well what happened to her?” I didn’t think, you know, that she was a horrible person that she done these things to me and taught me these type of things. I just wanted to understand what damage was done to her.’

With both parents in jail, Craig was put in foster care in the early 1980s before he was old enough to walk. By age five he was living with a half a dozen other kids in a Western Australian foster home under the care of house parents Pam and Terry Morecombe.

The Morecombes had a teenage daughter named Diane who would take Craig aside every now then and abuse him. ‘She’d take me in the room’ Craig recalled, ‘and she’d lay with no pants on and hold the door closed so no one could come in. And then she’d ask me to do things to her.’

As far as Craig knows, Pam and Terry had no idea this was going on. Craig didn’t mention it to them or anyone else. A few months later he was picked up by an aunt and reunited with his parents.

When Craig was 12 his dad handed him $20 and said ‘go stay at your nanna’s. We’re off’. Ignoring his dad’s orders, Craig left his nanna where she was and set out on his own. He needed to eat so he started stealing and for that he wound up in a youth detention centre. When he got out he was on his own again.

Abandonment forced Craig to grow up too fast. So did the sexual abuse. He was in his early teens when his girlfriend fell pregnant. She lost the baby.

‘The moment I could have sex with girls my own age or a bit older or whatever, I wanted to make a family. I guess I wanted to make a family better than the one I had. Which I wasn’t ready for. I could never do it.’

Craig was jailed at 18 for the first of a string of robbery offences that have kept him imprisoned for the better part of the last 15 years.

‘I get out one year and before the year’s out I’m back in … When I’m doing the crimes and I’m aware that I’m going to end up in prison basically I think to myself “Well, I could do the jail, who gives a fuck”.’

But that attitude changes the second he steps inside.

‘I get in here and I’m devastated … Once I’m in here I do it miserably because I wish I’d thought better.’

Craig spoke to the Royal Commission from jail where he’s serving a sentence that won’t end for another four years. He’s been trying to use the time productively, signing up to the rehabilitation programs with a fresh attitude.

‘They’ve all benefited me this time because I actually did them to better myself not to get parole … I did meditation to control my temper and my anger, because I – what do they say? – bite my nose off to spite my face … It’s about me forgiving me and forgiving my parents and the way our life panned out, through our Aboriginal life, really. It’s been hard.’

Craig doesn’t resent Diane for the abuse she inflicted on him as a kid; he feels sorry for her. He assumes that she too was abused as a child. He knows that she went on to lead a life that was troubled and short.

Craig’s eyes are on the future. His dream is to join a crew that travels to Aboriginal communities repairing the toilets and kitchens and teaching the locals how to maintain these amenities themselves.

‘Because we don’t realise that we have a lot. We have a lot but no one’s taking care of it.’

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