Dale Gregory's story

Dale’s mum was 16 when she had Dale in the early 1980s, and living in a regional Aboriginal community. When he was five, she surrendered him and his younger brother into care. ‘My Dad’s mentally ill, and Mum wasn’t there, was never there for me. She’s the one who put me in the foster home.’

Dale was placed with Bill and Ella Turner, while his brother went to live with relatives. The Turners lived in the same community, and already had numerous other foster children, as well as kids of their own. Devout Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘they were very strict. They did a lot of mentally abusing, physically abusing, sexually abusing’.

Bill sexually abused Dale numerous times, inappropriately touching and fondling him. Being so young, Dale didn’t really understand when Bill tried to make him do sexual things. ‘I’ll get flashbacks and that. It’s like oh, I know what it means now – you know when you get older.’

One of Bill’s children, Cindy, also molested Dale. He assumes she learned this behaviour from Bill. ‘I thought that he must have been doing that to her as well, and then she was going back onto me.’

Dale doesn’t remember anyone from Welfare ever checking on the household.

‘I’m surprised how they’ve been foster parents in the first place ... Maybe it’s ‘cause it’s an Indigenous community, maybe they try to put a blind eye to it. Maybe it might have been different if it was in the suburbs.

‘Because a lot of abuse, and alcohol, and all kinds of stuff was happening in the community as well ... But in his care, they’re supposed to be a good role model and all of that, and they’re taking advantage of innocent kids.’

After a few years Dale’s father collected him from the Turners, and they moved across the country. With ‘no family base’ and his father still quite mentally ill, ‘no-one showed me the ropes. I had to learn to be a man’.

As a young adult Dale drank heavily and used marijuana to cope. ‘I used to smoke a lot of it, but I can’t smoke it no more, because it just gets me paranoid.’

Feeling ‘like I had to do crime to make friends’, he spent a short time in jail. At 19 he was released from prison, and his first child was born. He decided to turn his life around. ‘I’m learning from my lessons. I don’t hardly drink anymore. I lost a lot of family from drinking.’

His parents and many relatives continue drinking heavily, and his little brother has almost died from his alcohol abuse. ‘I’ve tried to tell him there’s other ways of dealing with problems, without doing drugs and drinking.’

Dale is determined not to do that to himself. ‘I just wanted a different lifestyle. And I try to learn from my family and friends, that are older than me. I don’t want to go the way they did, and die, don’t leave a legacy to their family ...

‘I want to be a role model to my children. And I want to stop the rot of that bad stuff that happened to me in the past. I don’t want it to go into the next generation of my family.’

Dale recently made contact with some of his former foster siblings, and he has started disclosing the sexual abuse by Bill. ‘I have told some of them, and they said that other kids around my age, or that was in his care (or both of their care actually) were saying the same stories. But I don’t know if they have fully came out yet about it.’

Although he has spoken to Cindy through social media, he hasn’t discussed what her dad did to him. ‘I never mention anything about it to her, because that’s her parents, and I feel awkward.’

He does not want to talk to her about the sexual abuse she subjected him to either. ‘At the time, I don’t know, she would have been young as well. So I don’t sort of blame her for it.’

Dale told the Commissioner he struggles with trusting others, and this has impacted on his ability to form long-term relationships. He was prescribed antidepressants, which he finds useful, after he approached a doctor about his sleep problems.

‘I had problems sleeping. Like, staying up too much ‘cause I think too much. Like I’m always thinking. I could be talking to you but I’ll be thinking about something else at the same time. Be doing a lot of multi-tasking in my head ...

My body would be tired, really tired, but my head won’t shut down, because I’m always thinking things. Sometimes I think a lot about bad things. Like I always expect the worst from everyone. I’ve always done that, most of my life.’

Dale is a single parent to one of his young daughters, and makes sure she knows she is loved and has a good education. He has even gone back to study himself.

‘I only went to Year 9 at school, and I only went to school for footy ... I had doubts when I first went into class, but I’m feeling good that I did stick with it. I just had to take more risks to get somewhere in life, make sacrifices.’

Most of all, Dale wants to be the best Dad he can be. ‘I just want the simple things in life. I don’t want to be rich or nothing. I just want a roof over my head, to have all my children with me. I’d be a happy man then.’

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