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Daniel Paul's story

Daniel was made a ward of the state, in New South Wales, in the 1960s when he was six years old. Together with his seven siblings, he was placed by welfare authorities into an Anglican children’s home, but over the following years the family unit was broken up with some siblings remaining in the home while others were sent to different institutions throughout the state.

He didn’t meet a lot of his brothers and sisters until he was 19 years old, and said they were now ‘like friends’, rather than family.

‘Back then if you were a big family it was better to split you up. Because power in numbers. That was their way of thought. That was the way it was.’

Daniel said restrictions placed on his mother’s visits were another means of control. ‘She could see us once a month, at the end of it, by the time I was nearly out of there. She used to come on every Sunday and we’d go and we’d have lunch, a baked dinner, then be back to the home by a certain time. Then it got to a fortnight, then it got to she could see us once every three weeks and then it got to she could actually just come to the home and sit with us once a month. So I don’t know what that was all about. I think it was just hate for our family, you know.’

Punishments in the home were severe with Matron James the harshest and most frequent inflictor of beatings. The matron used an iron bar wrapped in a piece of leather. ‘She’d flog you, like I mean just keep flogging you, not like 10 hits, sometimes like 90 or 70 hits to make you cry, cause until you cry they wouldn’t stop. So I just most of the time wouldn’t cry.’

The sounds of other children crying were common and their bruises, welts and open cuts were visible to all, including the welfare workers who came to visit. One worker visited frequently but took no action about the obvious injuries. ‘He’d say, “Okay, I’ll leave it with you, Matron”. He was head of child welfare.’

Daniel described being beaten one evening for arriving late after playing hockey. He’d been hit in the mouth during the game and needed to go to hospital for sutures and treatment to his broken teeth. When he was unable to eat the meal served, another staff member repeatedly hit him in the head until he’d eaten all the food, by which time he was about to pass out with the pain.

When he was nine years old, Daniel and a friend were taken into a room by one of the 16-year-old boys at the home and raped. ‘It was incredibly painful and terrifying. Afterward he said if we told anyone he would bash us. We believed him and told no-one.’

Daniel told the Commissioner he made his first disclosure about conditions at the home when he was 12, and had run away to a woman’s house where he’d previously done some work. She believed and tried to hide him, but after a week rang the police to find out what to do. They came and took Daniel back. He told them he’d be flogged and the young police officer accompanied him in and asked the matron not to hit him. As soon as they’d gone, Daniel ‘got another flogging’.

After years of denial, the Church of England acknowledged its poor duty of care to children in the home. This was after ex-residents persevered in personal communication and later, legal action. Non-response to the violence and the forced movement of children away from family units were factors for which Daniel thought the NSW Government should also be held responsible.

The Royal Commission’s public hearing into the Anglican Diocese’s response to child sexual abuse in 2013 encouraged Daniel to tell of his experiences. ‘A lot of it’s been blamed on the church, which I agree with, but a lot of it should be blamed on the state government because when I was put in that institution I was under the care of child welfare and I believe they had the responsibility of care.’

In the late 2000s, Daniel received an ex-gratia payment from the Anglican Church of $22,000, half of which went to his lawyer. More recently, he received a telephone call from representatives of the Anglican Church offering him a further $53,000. He was surprised by the call and suggested the payment be increased to cover his medical expenses, but this was refused. He thought the money ‘just shuts you up a bit more’, and didn’t want an apology because ‘it wasn’t them’ who were responsible for the abuse.

‘I always said to people it was like winning Lotto. I didn’t look at it as anything to do with the home. That’s the way I looked at it. I didn’t even sense it in any other way.’

Daniel said for decades he drank heavily and smoked marijuana as a way of managing intense feelings of anger. He stopped in the early 90s and decided to acknowledge the past. He’d done this by himself and with the help of a supportive GP. Married young, Daniel separated from his wife and brought up three children alone. He had struggled over the years with feelings of depression and hopelessness and stopped at the last minute in a suicide attempt when he thought of his youngest daughter, then aged nine.

During his working life, Daniel estimated he’d had 33 different jobs and an equal number of homes. ‘I’ve never been sacked but I won’t take being bullied or pushed around … It’s that power thing.’ He said he had given his current partner the file he’d written about his early life because he thought it important she know him.

‘A lot of blokes want to run and hide, like me. You sort of run, you’re hiding, but they just want to bail out, instead of deal with it, get over it.’

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