Daryl James's story

The Queensland Department of Child Safety first stepped into Daryl’s life when he was a toddler in the 1990s. His mother had developed a drug dependence and the department told her that if she went back to live with Daryl’s father, then her kids could stay in her care.

‘But she chose the drug path and went down that track.’ Daryl and his siblings were made wards of the state and sent to live with their aunt and uncle. The boys kept running away and eventually one of his brothers was sent somewhere else. So Daryl and his brother Jimmy ‘were stuck with our uncle for about eight years’.

But it was their older cousin Peter who was the problem. He physically and sexually abused both boys repeatedly. ‘We got bashed, raped, you name it.’ Daryl wept as he remembered details. ‘He’d put his hand over our mouth and nose so we couldn’t breathe. At times he would duct-tape us up.’ One time his aunt just watched as her son beat Daryl and Jimmy.

‘He told us if we told anyone we‘d cop it worser. Worser punishment.’

The boys would turn up to school with bruises all over them. Under threat of further punishment, Jimmy had to tell the school that he and his brother had hit each other.

‘We tried tellin’ Child Safety. And Child Safety just basically turned a blind eye.’

Daryl does remember the day a welfare officer finally confronted his aunt and uncle. But they strenuously denied all accusations. They even tried to tell Child Safety that the boys’ own father was molesting them while they were asleep.

Then the two boys were punished yet again. Daryl remembers he was seven or eight years old at the time.

‘We copped it worser … We ran away to Mum’s house. And Mum done the right thing.’ She took the boys to a police station in Brisbane and reported what had been happening. But the boys were made to go back. ‘We got taken back and we got beaten.’ Their aunt beat their arms and legs with a hammer. ‘Then Peter bashed us and hurt us more.’

The subsequent bruising was so bad that Daryl’s aunt and uncle decided to hide the boys away for a while. They took them up to a town north of Brisbane and told Child Safety they were on holidays. ‘But we didn’t go on holiday. We went on holiday to heal up, and brought back.’

Daryl’s older sister also attempted to stop the ongoing abuse. She kidnapped the boys and brought them to live with her. ‘She hid us for about a week, two weeks.’ But the police found them, took them back to the aunt and uncle, and charged Daryl’s sister with child abduction.

‘She done nothing wrong. She was helpin’ us.’

When Daryl was 12, he and his brother were returned to their mother, who was now no longer dependent on drugs. But by then the trauma had affected Daryl deeply.

Constantly worried about what would happen when he got home, Daryl was never able to concentrate at school. ‘I tried doin’ literacy and numeracy ... and I just can’t do it … When I try to learn, it brings back when I was in school in that situation … It just brings back memories … I get all fidgety and uncomfortable. Hot, sweaty, cold.’

Daryl has been in and out of jail. He’s been diagnosed with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. He doesn’t like to be touched. Drugs were his way of coping with intrusive memories of abuse and assaults were his way of dealing with the anger. ‘I done a lot of drugs, a lot of crime. That’s the reason why I do crime. If I’m thinking about it ... I go hurt someone else.’

‘It’s destroyed my life. Now I’ve got a criminal history. It comes back. I even have dreams about it sometimes. It really hurts, all that shit what he done. He got away with it.’

Daryl said it wasn’t easy to talk to the Commission. ‘The courage was basically to stop my cousin. He could be doin’ it to other kids … He looked at us like easy targets.’

With support, Daryl is now considering reporting his cousin Peter to the police.

‘He took away my childhood. He took away my brother’s childhood … We tried to tell Child Safety ... They wouldn’t listen.’

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