Darius's story

A life in prison, a life of drug abuse, a life of causing pain and injury to other people. That’s what Darius got for smashing two windows.

He was 13, a son of Greek migrants, when he and his cousin were out catching pigeons and got caught breaking a couple of windows.

This was Sydney in the late 1970s and Darius and his cousin were sent to the Children’s Court on a charge of ‘malicious injury to two windows’. Darius’s mother couldn’t speak English and didn’t know what was going on. Neither of the boys had a solicitor, but his cousin’s mother did know some English and she managed to speak up for her son, who was let off with a caution.

Darius wasn’t so lucky and was given a ‘general sentence’, which meant a minimum of six months and up to three years in custody. He was sent to a juvenile detention centre in regional New South Wales.

When he first got there he asked an officer about having guitar lessons. The officer said he’d see what he could do. The next time he asked, he was taken to the office.

There was a kid called a ‘dingo chaser’, Darius explained to the Commissioner, another inmate who would catch any escapees. The dingo chaser got him from his room one night and took him to the office. The officer called him in.

‘He said, “So you want guitar lessons?” He whacked me up the left side of me [ear] … and then started sexually assaulting me. Had me over the table and did what he had to do. This went on probably twice a week … Then the dingo chaser would take me back.’

The officer warned him not to tell anyone, threatening to cancel Darius’s weekend leave or extend his incarceration, which was a real possibility due to his ‘general sentence’. Besides, he had nowhere safe to disclose the abuse.

‘How does a 13-year-old tell someone? Who do I go to?’ Darius asked. ‘I was scared, I’m ashamed, I’m embarrassed.’

Darius said the abuse continued for the six months of his sentence. He didn’t see other boys being abused but two of his friends from that time have committed suicide, one of whom had previously told him he was regularly assaulted.

After his release, Darius went back to school, but left very young as he couldn’t focus on schoolwork. He began doing drugs, starting with lighter fluid, and moving to car sickness tablets, to marijuana, then amphetamines, to heroin. He has been on heroin ever since.

Darius now has a very long record of criminal activity and has spent much of his adult life in jail.

As well as his significant drug abuse problem, which Darius said was his attempt to block things out, he has trouble sleeping, ‘horrible, horrible’ nightmares, anxiety and depression. He developed a lot of self-protective coping mechanisms while in jail.

‘I was always trying to be on my own. I didn’t go into the showers. You work out the time everyone goes in … I’d wait right ’til the end, have a cold shower. I was quite distant from the inmates and the officers. It was just a wall. I just put a wall up in front of me, I didn’t trust them whatsoever.’

The first time he disclosed his abuse to anybody was when the Royal Commission visited the jail where he was then serving a sentence. He is now out of jail, and off drugs. He decided to come forward ‘because I want to get me life back on track … I’ve been holding it for over 30 years’.

Darius never told his parents about the abuse, partly because he didn’t want them to think they were to blame, even though at one stage he blamed them himself, only later realising that they were disadvantaged through language and not understanding the system.

He said his life spiralled out of control as a result of what happened to him.

‘I didn’t deserve that. I didn’t deserve to go to a boys’ institute … It’s had an enormous impact. And not only that, I’ve had an enormous impact on other people’s lives, which I look back on now and I regret, I really do regret it.’

Darius doesn’t care about compensation or an apology. But he would very much like to see the man who abused him exposed and brought to justice for his crimes.

He is also grateful that his story may help prevent such crimes against children in the future, and will help inform recommendations made by the Royal Commission.

‘That makes me feel so good today. This has been the best day of my life today’, he said.

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