‘I just remember sort of, as a child, always getting in trouble at school. I tried to do my best. My mum always used to give me a bit of a hard time and I went to my grandparents. They done a lot of schooling for me from home as well as at school.’
Dan’s grandparents were a stable influence in his life but from a young age he moved between different states in Australia, following his mother and father who’d separated and had transient jobs.
From the early 1990s, when he was in his early teens, Dan was regularly in trouble with his parents and the police. Before he was 18, he’d spent time in about seven different juvenile receiving centres and detention facilities. His offences including stealing and truancy, and he recalled being ‘taken to the courts as an uncontrollable child’.
‘My mum said the courts took me off them, but I think my mum was the one that made it all happen.’
In one of the detention centres Dan was ‘bashed constantly off other children and workers’ and sexually assaulted by older inmates and by a male officer.
Dan said workers in the centre knew about the sexual assaults but ‘didn’t care what happened’.
In another receiving centre, Dan was sexually abused by Joyce, a woman in charge of one of the cottages. ‘She was sort of a grumpy old lady. I was forced to do things there. I remember there was another bloke who was forced as well, because we both took off at the same time. He was actually caught climbing the fence.’
Dan attempted to abscond many times from institutions and when he eventually left state care he lived on the streets selling sex for money, food and shelter. He’d always felt ashamed about what he was doing and confused about his sexuality.
‘I just thought being a child, you don’t know what’s happening. I thought it was all me and I didn’t know what had gone on, and that significantly changed my life. I went from a straight child to a bisexual child having to work for money doing crime. I was never game enough to tell my parents 'cause I always thought they’d want to disown me.'
He said he’d had a feeling that things ‘happened’ the way they did in his life because he ‘was meant to be with a male, not a female’.
’Then I got bashed by a heap of blokes. I ended up in hospital for a couple of days over it, and then it went from that to convert it to criminal activity, and since then I’ve just been in and out of jail, for mainly car theft.
'There’s only one or two major violent crimes, which was a robbery in company as a juvenile, and then the stuff I’m in for now – it’s something that happened probably close to 10 years ago.’
Speaking to the Commissioner from jail, Dan said he was worried about participating in group programs as an inmate because he didn’t want to bring up events of the past, including the sexual abuse.
‘I’ve had all these years to put this at the back of my head’, he said. ‘And it’s just so hard for me and there’s issues that I may not even get out of here on parole because they want me to do a violence prevention course, and I’ve been told that’s very intense and they want your whole background.
'I can’t do that, so it’s going to screw my head up more, and it’s going to screw my family up because I won’t be able to get parole over it either.’
About 15 years ago, Dan attempted to report the abuse he’d experienced as a child to prison staff but his allegations were dismissed. He’d never made any other reports nor had he sought redress.
‘I’m not after compensation. If anything, compensation needs to go to the people that are trying to stop this for the children, you know.’
One of his recommendations to the Royal Commission was that support be made available to those leaving the juvenile justice system.
‘I was told when I was young, being a ward of the state in government care that when we get a bit older we’re entitled to help. I was denied. That sort of thing has to be helped for children, because they get older and get out of jail, they’ve got nothing. They go to the [district] officer or wherever they had to go: “Oh no, we can’t do anything”. You know, they say, “Oh, you’re not on our system”, stuff like that.
‘I know I was on their system because the children’s court in [New South Wales] had taken me and I knew my district officer, who my school truanting officer was. If they weren’t, you know what I mean, my DO officer and everything, how would I know their names? So therefore I had to be in government care, and they’re telling me, “No, you can’t get help”.
‘We were all told we could get help. You just get palmed off to the side and there’s people out there that do need the help, and I know many kids have committed suicide because they can’t get help.
'They’ve OD’d. They’ve been … trying to make money to help them, and it’s not a nice feeling seeing people OD or people hang. They need the help. I’m lucky myself – I’ve learnt to grow, to know how to manage my life and step up to make money in the right way, but there’s other people that don’t.
'So that’s the main thing that they also need to do, is the children that have been in government care, make sure they get help.’