Digby's story

Digby was born in the early 1970s, and lived with his parents and siblings in a suburb of Brisbane. He described his mother as ‘one of them “wait ‘til your dad gets home” sort of mothers’, and that this was ‘sort of what made Dad aggressive when he got home, ’cause he had to work and come home and deal with that as well’.

In primary school, Digby had an accident which left him vision impaired, and required a lengthy stay in hospital. This affected his social skills, and made him ‘stand-offish’. ‘I ran away once,’ he said, ‘and I used to wag school, and that’s what got my parents to get me deemed uncontrollable’.

In the mid-1980s, DOCS sent Digby to a boys’ home south of Brisbane run by the De La Salle Brothers. On one occasion, he was sexually abused by Brother Patrick who had asked him to help sort out the belongings of another Brother who had died. After the abuse, Brother Patrick threatened him by saying ‘Kids who know how to make things run smoothly have a better time. Those who don’t, there’s other places that they can be sent to that aren’t so nice’. ‘I sort of freaked out and froze’, Digby said. ‘He gave me a set of rosaries that belonged to the Brother … and sent me back to the unit after that.’

Other Brothers abused Digby, but in a different manner. ‘They’d touch you inappropriately when they could get away with it and call it something else, you know what I mean, like playing in the pool or something … They’d throw you in the pool. Instead of just putting their hand under your bum, they’d go right under and get a handful.’

He was also sexually abused at night by older boys. ‘With the older boys, maybe five times in the whole time I was there, so it wasn’t very frequent, but …’

Digby felt that ‘DOCS just dumped us there. They never come and checked on what was happening. And when they were told what was happening, they simply chose not to believe it’.

After a couple of years at the boys’ home, Digby got out. However, he said that ‘I wasn’t welcome back home. Been on me own since then’. He found it hard to trust people, and this affected his behaviour in the workplace. ‘I can’t work with the same people all the time. It always ends up in conflict’, he said. It also affected his ability to hold down a job. ‘I think maybe all the work I’ve done since I left [the home], you put it altogether, it’s maybe three years’ worth. I got no super. I’ve got no savings.’

Digby never told anybody about the abuse, and had ‘finally learned to live with it’. However, when he applied for a Queensland redress payment, he revealed the abuse to his wife who was ‘supportive’. He received a modest payment from the Queensland Government, and a payout from the De La Salle Brothers which was ‘not that crash hot’ because he knew of other men using a different legal firm who had got ‘three times what I got’.

When he disclosed the abuse, Digby received support and compensation. However, he said that ‘the changes it made in me, having it all brought back, ruined me. I wish it never happened’. He could no longer contain his memories, and became ‘an angry person’. ‘I’d learned to live with it already. We all had. No one expected it to have this effect on us this far down the track.’

DOCS has come back into Digby’s life, and he suspects that vengeance might be playing a part. ‘Since the redress scheme, since we all told on them, a lot of boys have had trouble with DOCS or the CPS as they call themselves now … I want to know if that’s vindictive.’

He believes that ‘they set us up for failure’ by intentionally putting his children with foster parents who spoiled them and created an unfair comparison. He feels that CPS workers overreacted to his anger when they came to his home recently and ‘booted’ him out onto the street. He also believes that they pressured the police to drop his complaint against Brother Patrick, knowing that he was suicidal, in the hope that he would kill himself.

Digby is ‘doing it real hard at the moment’. He is living outside of the family home and has an AVO against him. While disclosure has come with a personal cost, he felt compelled to share his story with the Commission for two main reasons. He said that he wanted to speak up for ‘several friends that I was in there with who are all dead now. Couple of them by their own hands’. He also said that ‘because my kids may be the next lot coming through DOCS, I want to make sure they get cleaned up’.

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