Diane was born a male in the mid-1960s and placed into an Anglican boys’ home after her parents separated. Within her first few weeks at the home she was approached by the deputy superintendent, Mr Buscombe.
‘The first incident was when he actually took me from the fence and either piggybacked or carried me to his flat at the rear of the teenagers’ quarters where he sexually abused me.’
The abuse continued for about three years, then ended abruptly when Buscombe left the home. ‘He just disappeared and it just felt like, to me, more abandonment in my life even though he was an abuser.’
Diane is sure that the matron who worked at the home knew what was going on.
‘Of course she knew that I would have been abused, I believe she did, because she used to encourage the friendship and the relationship that I had with him. She used to say, “Oh, you’re such a lucky boy to be on Mr Buscombe’s shoulders” or whatever. It was very encouraged.’
After leaving the home, Diane carried on with her life as best she could but the effects of the abuse stuck with her.
‘I feel that growing up I had no identity. I didn’t feel I was a person so I never felt important or that there was really anyone out there, as a child, who actually loved or cared for me … I felt invisible. I just feel I’ve been robbed of opportunities. I felt the sexual abuse stopped me from ever being somebody, and it continues throughout my life. It doesn’t matter if you have good things happen to you, you just sort of feel that something’s around that corner that’s going to pull you down again.’
At 17, Diane commenced the process of gender reassignment.
‘I don’t know why I’m transgender. The earliest memories I have is that I am female, but [Buscombe’s] contribution to that I do not understand, but I do have to believe in myself and believe I am female.’
In the early 2000s Diane saw some Anglican Church publicity urging survivors of abuse to come forward and she decided to speak out. She rang the police and got in touch with a ‘wonderful’ officer who helped push her case forward. The process stalled, however, when a more senior detective got involved and told Diane that her case would be shelved because Buscombe was now a vagrant and wasn’t worth pursuing.
‘They said, “Please be satisfied that he is suffering his own demons of alcoholism and homelessness. So feel good about that. Feel good that his life is going to be a degradable mess”. And I was meant to be happy with that end result, which just made me more determined.’
Diane made her own inquiries and managed to locate Buscombe. At the same time she explained her case to some senior officials who then persuaded police to get the matter back on track.
Eventually, Buscombe was brought to trial. The Director of Public Prosecutions offered Diane the chance to give her evidence remotely via a TV monitor but she declined.
‘I said I want to be present with him. Even though he was there in that glass area I wanted him to be there. I did want him to see me. I wanted him to see me walk past him because that was me getting the power back.’
The jury was dismissed during the first trial, so Diane had to go through the whole process again for the second trial. She said, ‘Honestly it felt like I was raped twice’.
In the end, Buscombe was convicted of three counts of indecent assault.
Around that time Diane also entered into a mediation process with the Anglican Church. It went on for more than a year and she found the Church representatives to be ‘very defensive’.
‘And their solicitor team, they were cold as ice. They were just so sharp and unemotional. There was no empathy or understanding. It was like a board game that they had to win.’
Diane eventually received $230,000 in compensation from the Church. With that, and the outcome of the criminal trial, she feels she’s achieved some justice. She said she hopes her story might encourage others to take action.
‘Just to let the victims know, victims of institutional abuse, you are a survivor and you can get that goal of justice.’