‘My mum just dumped me’, Davy told the Commissioner. As a result, he grew up in far north Queensland with his grandparents, and in various foster placements. Eventually, ‘I pretty much got in the shit and run amok’.
In the mid 1990s, as he approached his teens, Davy was sent to a youth detention centre in a Queensland city. That was followed by a stint at a training farm specifically for Aboriginal youth. These periods were followed by many more years in institutions, including prison. Davy was in jail when he spoke to the Commissioner, and believes that much of the trouble in his life began with the sexual and physical abuse he experienced at those first two facilities.
‘I’ve got a bad history … You grow up tough like that … If you looked on my medical – on my court history and stuff like that, you’ll see it’s embedded. It’s been there ever since all this shit happened.’
The first centre Davy was sent to, which at the time accommodated both boys and girls, was especially bad. ‘I got bashed a lot there. We watched the officers do a lot of things [to] other people. It was just shit. That was a shit place.’ Early attempts to report abuse made no difference.
‘We used to tell [a supervisor] a lot of shit and that and it never went anywhere. It’d just float around among the staff members and that, and we’d get beaten up because of trying to let it out.
'We learned how to shut up, and I think [the officers] learned how to stick together, I don’t know. That’s how it is in here too, sort of thing. You get beat up out here … but that goes on everywhere, in every prison system. Not much you can do about it. Pretty much just shut your mouth.’
Davy dealt with the abuse by pretending it wasn’t happening. And eventually he got big enough and strong enough to make his abusers to think twice. ‘I used to train like nothing else … They’d get to the point where “We can’t keep [up] with this kid, he’s going to fuckin’ hurt us”, you know what I mean. I think they just couldn’t handle me anymore, or something.’
In the years that followed, Davy never considered making a formal complaint.
‘We never used to think like that … Like, I’ve got a real bad violent history and that’s pretty much because of what happened there, I think. I always thought to myself that I’d get him myself, you know what I mean?’
He could recall only one person who’d genuinely tried to help him throughout his years in institutions. It was when he was in a juvenile justice centre. A caseworker – ‘an old sheila’ – visited him and Davy revealed that he’d been sexually abused.
‘She used to work for family services, I think … She ended up getting it out of me one day. I started bawling, and shit and whatnot, crying and that – she got it out of me … She was the only one that tried to do something about it. She was a nice old lady.’
The caseworker wrote a court report, asking that Davy’s experiences as a victim of abuse be taken into account at his hearing.
‘Courts just said yeah, well. Whatever. Chuck him back into juvie. He can do counselling and all this sort of thing. But all they did was throw me on medication; I didn’t get to see a counsellor. I got to see him once … He just came and went pretty much. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen him.’
There were meant to be 12 free sessions with the counsellor, Davy said – ‘He pretty much got paid by the government for nothing, I suppose.’
It has been just as hard to access mental health services in the adult correctional system. ‘Psychologists and that are supposed to come and see you. I’ve been ordered to see them and stuff, pretty much every sentence that I’ve gotten since I was 12. Might have seen them once or twice through my whole sentence.’
Davy is off medication now. ‘I’d rather work things out for myself. That’s what I’m working on now, is the emotional shit.’ He suffers from what he described as ‘incidents’ – ‘When I go off, I go off’ – but he hasn’t had any for a long time. They’re the result of ‘looking inwards’, he explained. ‘You look inwards and there’s nothing there, and it sort of upsets you.’
Right now he’s making plans for when he gets out of jail. Davy has three kids he wants to look after, though he doubts he’ll be ready straightaway.
‘I’ve gotta prove myself before I get my kids back. There’s no way I’m diving into the deep end on that one. I’ve gotta prove to myself I can do it … I don’t want them going through the same shit I went through.’
He hopes to spend time with his father’s family, in remote country. ‘I don’t want to lose that sort of side of my anatomy … Get to know that side of the family ‘cause I don’t really know them. They’re pretty much all I got left, 'cause I got no one left on me mum’s side.’
Davy believes he may have rights as a native title claimant, but the possibility is too hard to deal with for now. ‘I wouldn’t know where to start with all that shit. I’m not even going to bother.’
He’s concerned about the lack of support services for when he gets out, and how difficult it might be to make a go of things. It’s not hard to find work, he said.
‘If I need it, I can pretty much go and get it. But it’s hard for me to pull my shit together. It’s not an easy thing for me … Like I said, I get out of here – you understand, it’ll be a lot easier for me to go back to turning people over for money … It’s easier for me to do that than get my shit straight.’
His kids are a reason to try – ‘But I don’t want to fall into the category where you got no fuckin’ choice, you know what I mean? That’s the hard thing about getting out of jail.’
Davy told the Commissioner he was ready to put his experiences of abuse behind him.
‘I think I’ve had enough. I can’t really let any of this sort of stuff affect me anymore. It’s not really important to me anymore. I’ve got three little fellas and they’re probably more important to me than anything.’