Doug Mackenzie's story

Doug is now almost 60 years old and has problems with his memory. He was in so many different boys’ homes in both New South Wales and Queensland, sometimes for weeks, sometimes for months, that he has trouble keeping them in chronological order. Doug provided the Commissioner with a lengthy written statement about his years of sexual abuse in juvenile detention. Writing the statement helped him piece together the years he spent there.

In the statement he explained that:

‘The time spent in the boys’ homes has destroyed my life. I was raped from the age of eight to 14 and feared every day for my life.

‘I think about the sexual assaults every day of my life. I remember each rape, their faces, the pain and humiliation and what they said to me. The memories are vivid and disturbing.’

In 1965, when Doug was about eight years old, his father was sent to jail. Doug was living with his mother and older brothers but his brothers treated him badly and he would often run away from home. On one occasion he was picked up by the police and taken to a New South Wales state-run juvenile detention centre because he was deemed ‘uncontrollable’. Doug was raped by a senior officer that night.

Doug spent two weeks in the centre and was then released back into his mother’s care. He ran away again, because of his brothers, and was then placed in a regional state-run New South Wales home. He was eight years old and the youngest child in the home, something that made him a target for abusers.

Over the next years, Doug would be placed back into this particular boys’ home for various periods of time, and, as he grew older, in different ‘houses’ with different housemasters within the institution. He told the Commissioner that the home was a ‘stamping ground for child molesters’.

‘All these houses, the houses I went to, they were individual child molesters … the things that were done to me, I seen done to other people as well. Like the first day … my welcome to a boys’ home was “get your clothes off”, and someone putting their cock inside me. That’s not the done thing.

‘That was my introduction to becoming a man. Realising what the world was all about.’

Doug found that many of the staff were manipulative and brutal sexual predators. Rape was frequently used as a threat and a punishment. Some of the boys, the ‘prefects’, would also be involved in sexual abuse, and at times, the children of the housemasters were perpetrators or unwilling participants. The sexual abuse would often occur daily.

‘In the dormitories, in the showers, whenever there was no one present … they keep you back from school and that’s when it happens, there’s no one [else] there.’

Doug told the Commissioner that other staff knew the abuse was going on but did nothing to stop it. He reported his abuse to the supervisor and to executive staff.

‘They were all aware. The superintendent, I told him. I told him the first day it happened.’

Doug would routinely abscond from the home, frequently after being sexually abused. When police picked him up he would tell them about the abuse but he was not believed. The police would place him back in detention.

By the time Doug was 16 he had been in nine institutions, including two Queensland centres, and sexually abused in five. In most of the centres where Doug was sexually abused, the abuse occurred for the entirety of his stay. In his written statement Doug noted that the extraordinary and repeated abuse had shaped his life.

‘Functioning normally in society is very difficult due to the disturbing memories. I trust no one and I hate authority figures. I blame the government who made me a ward of the state, removed me from my family and then didn’t protect me from those animals. I had escaped many times from the institutions and tried to tell my story but no one listened.

‘I have been in and out of prison ever since. I estimate that I have only spent about four and a half years out of custodial institutions since the age of eight.’

He had a job for three months when he was 17 years old, the only time he has ever been employed outside prison.

‘[The abuse] took reality away from me … I just pretended it didn’t happen for many years. … I used to go out and re-offend on purpose just to get back at the government.’

‘In the basin of hell I used to re-offend [in] maybe three months, maybe a couple of weeks … I didn’t give a stuff about jail. Jail means nothing to me … it’s a breeze … the incarceration I’ve had makes me impartial to anything that they say they’re going to do to me.’

Recently, Doug has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

‘I don’t think it borders on bipolar. I think it borders on the fact that what happened in the boys’ homes, and what drives me to live my life, is influencing my brain in chemical ways that can’t be changed.’

He has insomnia, a fear of crowds, severe depression, anxiety, PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and experiences panic attacks. He is now on a disability pension.

Doug first tried to take his own life when he was about 12 years old.

‘I was that depressed. I was in the woodshed one day chopping wood and my whole life flashed through my mind. I found old cable wire that was on a roll, I cut and tied it to the rafters. I made a noose and jumped off the chair. One of the boys saw me and got me down.’

When Doug was 50 years old, he decided he had to change his life. He applied to appear in the NSW Drug Court and finally, he felt that someone listened.

‘I actually had somebody sit down and listen to me … I would never acknowledge a judge but I did acknowledge her because she said what I was thinking: “Why hadn’t I done something about it?”

‘I told her … “I’m coming to this court room now to ask you to accept the fact that I’ve been steered on a path that I didn’t want to be steered on”.’

He worked hard to be released from prison and then to stay out.

‘I’ve been out now nearly two years.’

He has a good relationship with his daughter and grandchildren and is planning to put in claims for compensation against both the New South Wales and Queensland governments. He is also going to make formal statements to the police about his abusers.

‘I want people to suffer for this. I don’t care if they are 95 years old. They did what they did.’

He is now ‘quite content’ and takes both courage and pride from the fact that despite his extensive criminal record, he made better choices than many others he met in juvenile detention.

‘I’ve seen blokes that went through the same things as me in boys’ homes and … they turn out to be monsters … I’m not a killer. I’m not a violent person. No violence on my record.

‘I lived [with] that [abuse] throughout my whole life locked up inside me. The impact that had on me was I wasn’t allowed to live.’

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