Dale grew up in Melbourne in the 1960s, in a large, dysfunctional family. His father was an alcoholic and his mother ‘chose to lie in bed and smoke and take Valium all day at some point in her life’. His parents split up when he was 10, and Dale went to live with his mother.
A couple of years later, Dale was a member of his local Scout troop for about eight months. He enjoyed it. ‘[We] did lots of interesting things. That’s a positive thing on the whole.’
Peter Wells was the assistant Scout leader of Dale’s Scout group, and he befriended Dale’s family. He often drove Dale to jamborees and other events. On one occasion, when they were in the car, Wells told Dale that he knew some girls, and that they could go and have some beers with them. Wells gave him a drink and the next thing Dale remembers is waking up ‘with his dick in my mouth’.
Dale believes that Wells had ‘given me something that completely disabled me’. This is the only time Dale recalls being sexually abused by Wells, but there were other occasions when he had the opportunity. Dale remembers waking up feeling very groggy a number of times when he was at jamborees.
‘I was furious when I figured it out. It didn’t really dawn on me what had happened, because it was so patchy, but I just turned into a really angry violent kid … I just went downhill from there.’
Dale told the Commissioner that before the abuse, ‘teachers liked me, other kids got on with me. I was playing sports and all those things that you’re supposed to do and I just went to … non-compliance and fighting and smoking and drinking at school’. No one asked why his behaviour had changed. ‘I just became a problem kid and it was just all too hard.’
Dale was expelled from a number of high schools. He began ‘antagonising teachers, punching other kids. In the end I started carrying a knife, drinking on the way to school on the train, throwing bottles out of the train’.
Because of his behaviour, Dale’s mother placed him in a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers and while he was there, he was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. Dale told the Commissioner that after spending two years at the boys’ home, ‘you learn to be isolated. You learn to keep to yourself … Unless you were one of the bigger, tougher kids, you didn’t make any waves, because you got belted’.
After he left school at the end of Form 3, Dale hitchhiked to Adelaide and ended up in an adult prison. He had fake identification on him that showed his age as 18, rather than 16. His father was able to get him released, and Dale returned to Melbourne where he took up his current trade.
Dale told the Commissioner that as a result of the sexual and physical abuse he experienced, ‘I don’t have any friends. I don’t trust anybody. I don’t talk to any of my family because of my behaviour in the years after that. I don’t want any friends. I don’t want anything to do with society really.’
Dale has used alcohol as a coping mechanism for the last 40 years. ‘It gets away from me. It’s getting away from me now.’ In the past, he tried to keep it under control, ‘but now I really just couldn’t care less’.
Dale was ‘curious to know if the Commission’s talking to anyone who’s incarcerated because the majority of those people started off exactly where I did and I just got really lucky to get out of the loop, and I knew a lot of boys from [the boys’ home] that are still in [or] died in prison … That’s something I’d be curious to know, because those people haven’t got a hope in hell.’
‘It’s unfortunate that that process is the thing that has to be their demise, you know, because I’m just really, really lucky. That’s all it was, just sheer luck when I look back on some of the things I did … At one point it was out of my control … Carrying a knife and the things I was doing was just a recipe for disaster.’
During the 1980s, when he was having a particularly hard time with alcohol, Dale began seeing a counsellor and ‘she sort of dragged it out of me after about a year and then I went on the warpath’. He reported Wells to the police, and although Wells was charged with abusing both Dale and another boy, the case was thrown out at the committal hearing.
Dale told the Commissioner that two years ago he applied for compensation for the sexual, physical and emotional abuse he experienced as a Scout and as a resident of the boys’ home. He recently received a combined compensation payment from the Scouts, the Christian Brothers and Wells. Dale said that he gave most of it away to charity ‘because that’s what I wanted to do with it’.