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Darryl Adam's story

Darryl grew up in a dysfunctional family in rural New South Wales. He began wagging school, and in the early 1970s, when he was 13, he was placed on a care and supervision order by the court. ‘Apparently, myself and [my siblings] were in moral danger.’ Darryl’s mother decided that he should be sent to a boys’ home run by the Anglican Church.

During the time he was at the home, Darryl was physically and sexually abused by staff members. When the boys came home from school, Mr Conway, the house parent, would smell their breath and if he thought they’d been smoking, ‘we were assaulted physically … laid on the bed and flogged with a sandshoe, which was common practice’.

Mr Conway came into the dormitory at night to check if Darryl had wet the bed, ‘and this is where the sexual abuse started’.

On many occasions, Darryl ‘awoke with … his hands on my penis, masturbating me. On occasion, I’d awake and he was performing oral sex on me. If I had wet the bed, he would wake me up and I would go into the shower block and shower and wash my sheets … he would wash me and of course, fondle me and masturbate me and all sorts of things’.

Mr Conway threatened Darryl that if he told anyone about the abuse then he would be sent to a state-run institution, which would be far worse than the home he was in.

The other staff member, Mr Oldfield, took boys away on trips. Darryl recalled one trip where Mr Oldfield fondled him while he was driving and offered to have oral sex in the car.

‘I declined. But that night, myself and another boy were coerced … to perform various sexual acts on each other … Again, you were threatened with violence. Threatened with the possibility of going to other institutions.’

On one occasion, when Darryl ran away from the home, he committed an offence and was sent to a juvenile justice centre. ‘I thought that maybe it was the end of it all because I thought … I had gotten away from [the boys’ home] and Mr Conway and Co.’

Darryl’s house parents at the juvenile justice centre were good people and he had ‘high regard for [them]’. He is still in contact with his former house father.

All the Catholic children at the centre were made to march down the road to the local church. At the church, Darryl was ‘approached by one of the [Marist] Brothers … He basically put his arms around me and pulled me in towards him … he sort of massaged my head into his penis and offered for me to become an altar boy … I sort of declined.

‘After the church service, I was taken into a room and fondled and basically he offered to have sex … It wasn’t so much … A small amount of masturbation, but nowhere near as much sexual contact as [the boys’ home] … We attended church for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden … for some reason, we all stopped going to church.’

When Darryl was sent to another youth training centre, he was once again sexually abused by a staff member when he wet the bed. The sexual abuse was much the same as he had experienced at the hands of Mr Conway at the boys’ home.

The man who ran this home eventually became a high ranking official in the juvenile justice department. Darryl contacted this official in the mid-1990s, with a written statement. He also spoke to the man over the phone. He was ‘very patronising’. He joked and laughed about the abuse, and did not take Darryl’s complaint seriously.

In recent years, after Darryl made a formal statement to the police, the police officer could find no record of his ‘statement or interview or report or anything that I made to [the official], which I’m now not surprised … He obviously knew what was going on’.

Darryl started using drugs when he was in his late teens and ended up in a psychiatric hospital where he was wrongly diagnosed as having schizophrenia. He tried to take his own life a number of times, and experienced flashbacks, panic attacks and depression. He was given huge doses of medication for 20 years until he decided to stop taking it.

Darryl now uses Buddhist practices, meditation and mindfulness, and finds these much more beneficial than prescribed medication. He also sees a counsellor when he needs to.

In the late 2000s, Darryl applied to the Anglican Church for compensation for the abuse he experienced while under their care. They offered him $35,000 and a confidentiality agreement. ‘I feel it was very, very much hush money.’

Darryl wanted to take the Church to court, but his family did not want him to because, ‘Oh, my God, it’ll be in all the papers. It’ll be so embarrassing for [the family]’.

Darryl told the Commissioner, ‘I wasn’t the sort of person to be vindictive, but I needed to tell the truth. I needed for people to accept the truth, not for them, but for me, for my own wellbeing and peace of mind. I wasn’t getting it. I still won’t get it. I still don’t get it from various family members. I’m never going to get it'.

‘I’m resigned to that fact, but what I am doing now, is not only personal for me, it’s for all the future kids in care. It shouldn’t have happened. It’s happened. We can and we will make it a better system by … speaking up.’

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