Dane started rebelling against his mother and stepfather in his early teens, and they eventually kicked him out. In the late 1980s he was made a state ward and sent to live at a government-run children’s home on the central coast of New South Wales.
The home ‘was a violent place’. Some older residents had come from juvenile detention, and drugs and alcohol were easily accessible. One time another resident broke into Dane’s room and assaulted him while a youth worker watched on and did nothing. Dane was also aware of a sexual relationship between a worker and one of the residents.
Dane moved between the home and his family – which ‘didn’t go very well’ – and his family threw him out again. He was already doing community service at a local Anglican church, and the minister, Mr Hopkins, spoke to Dane’s Department of Community Services (DOCS) case manager.
‘Basically they had a conversation with each other on the driveway, and then it was decided that I’d stay there.’ There was a cot in the garage attached to the minister’s house, ‘so that was where I was going to stay’. Dane was not consulted about this placement.
Within a week, Hopkins got Dane intoxicated and raped him. There was another man present, and the two men drove him to the beach. When they parked the other man warned Dane to ‘get out of the car and run, he’s going to kill you’. Dane believes that Hopkins may have intended to take him out into the ocean and drown him.
The man hit Hopkins, and took Dane to a police station to report the assault. Hopkins resigned from the Church on the day he was charged. ‘You read the charge, it sounds quite minor. “Engaging in a homosexual act with a minor” or something like that. ... There was never anything brought up about the fact that he was going to kill me either.’ Hopkins was convicted, however, ‘I don’t think he went to jail ... It was a minor sentence, from what I heard’.
DOCs had responsibility for Dane’s wellbeing as a state ward, but never contacted him to check how he was after the abuse. ‘You’d have thought at the very least they’d have tried to put me in front of a psychologist.’
Dane used a lot of drugs and alcohol to cope, and went into rehab when he was 19. After this he completed a trade, and ‘basically I got my life back together ... started living a normal life like everyone else does’.
However, when his first child was born a few years later the abuse came flooding back to him. ‘What happened, that set off post-traumatic stress disorder related to the sexual assault. Now, I didn’t know that at the time. ... I started to feel really uncomfortable when I was giving my daughter a bath, that type of stuff.’
Dane worried that he may abuse his daughter – even though there was no indication he may do so – ‘because I’d heard this type of thing in the media, about survivors becoming offenders’. He also became jumpy when his partner touched him, had bad dreams, ‘and started to experience depression’.
Not understanding what these symptoms might mean, ‘I ended up resorting back to drugs and alcohol again’. He committed crimes to support his drug habit, and was incarcerated. While on remand he spoke to a psychologist, to make a report for court.
‘He said to me, “You’ve got PTSD” ... Who would’ve thought? You’d think if you’re going to suffer it would happen around the incident, not years down the track ... Once he explained it to me it made sense, what was going on ... The problem is, of course, that having that information doesn’t make the problem go away.’
The prison psychiatrist stated that the only treatment available inside was medication, and counselling was not an option. He spent two periods in jail, and told the Royal Commission about the lack of adequate mental health management for people in correctional facilities.
A solicitor later advised Dane that it would be too difficult to take legal action against DOCS, which ‘bugs me’. He asks how he could have been placed with Hopkins by way of a casual driveway conversation, and why the Department would let a child live in a garage. ‘I don’t think it was right ... They haven’t been brought to account.’
Instead, he sought compensation from the Anglican Church. His lawyers discovered that Hopkins had sexually abused a child before Dane. It seems there had been ‘all sorts of murky stuff going on’ with Hopkins, and ‘that the Church knew about it’. Dane was awarded a significant payout, only to have his lawyers take half of this money.
After his last release from prison, Dane made a strong commitment to abstain from alcohol and other drugs. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have helped him achieve this.
Dane continues to build his relationship with his children and ex-partner, recognising the impact his addictive behaviours had on them. ‘She bore the brunt of this stuff, in the sense that I left her in a terrible situation, where she had to bring up two kids on her own.’
His current wife ‘is great. She accepted me, my past ... and recognised that it was my past’. He runs his own business, and even his parole officer has commented on the significant changes he has made since his release. ‘Life’s just happened as a result of not using drugs and drinking.’