Dominic described the boys’ reformatory home as ‘a place of hell. No one knew that you existed there. Nobody knew. You were just forgotten about’.
He was sent there in the mid-1960s at age 14. The home was run by the Anglican Church, but Dominic never saw anything remotely religious going on. It was a place of sadistic physical violence and sexual abuse, most of which was perpetrated – or orchestrated – by a staff member named Fraser.
‘If he disliked you, he disliked you’, Dominic said. ‘He used to set the boys onto you. Nighttime in the dormitory. And you had to do things to them. He used to be at the window outside. Then he’d make a noise and walk into the room. “What’s going on?” he’d say. He’d say, “Get to sleep”.’
Sometimes during the day Fraser would get a group of his favourite boys to pick on Dominic in the yard. When Dominic reacted he would be labelled the instigator and sent to Fraser’s office to be punished with the strap.
Other times the boys attacked Dominic in the shower. He remembered being mobbed by them and pinned down. ‘And they got whatever they wanted to. They were always at us. It was out in the open. But him, he always did it behind closed doors, Fraser.’
After about eight months at the home, Dominic was sent to do some chores for a man named Mr Robson. He worked hard, and at the end of the day Mr Robson took him aside, said ‘You’re a good helper’, and asked if he wanted to become a tradesman.
‘I said, “I’d do anything to get out of here. Please help me”. Two weeks later, three weeks later I was out. Best thing that ever happened to me. But if it wasn’t for him I don’t know where I would have ended up. So he actually saved my life. He put me on the right path, that bloke did.’
Mr Robson organised an apprenticeship for Dominic who took to it eagerly and thrived, eventually becoming one of the most highly-regarded tradesmen in Perth. He also married and raised a family, all the while trying to put the past behind him.
As Dominic got older, memories of the abuse gnawed at him. He went to the police and asked them to track Fraser down. They said they would need more information about Fraser’s identity before they could do anything. He didn’t know where to begin and, feeling dispirited, left.
In the days that followed he started to wonder whether it was worth trying to track down a man who was probably ‘old and frail’ by now. He decided to forget the police.
Still the memories nagged at him. In search of closure he visited the boys’ home, accompanied by his wife. The place had been demolished. Dominic was pleased and walked away thinking that his troubles might now be ‘a bit easier to deal with it’.
Sadly, the one thing that Dominic can’t seem to shake off is his sense of shame.
‘I said to my wife, “I shouldn’t be [ashamed]. I did nothing wrong”. I have grandchildren, a lot of them. … They all reckon I’m tough. But I’m not tough. But if they knew what I went through I think they might think less of me. That’s what worries me.’
He also worries for the other kids who were abused at the boys’ home, especially those who never received the support that he’s received from good people like his wife and Mr Robson.
‘I just hope the kids that were around when we were there, they’re okay too. That they can get help. Because it wasn’t a nice place.’