In the evenings the orderly would take Drewe and other children in the elevator, to the home’s treatment room.
‘He used to strap us down, and say it was for our own good ... I’d be unconscious, I don’t know what he done, he drugged me or whatever but I couldn’t remember all of it. I’d wake up in a room, I’d have no clothes on. And this man would be standing over me ... I thought I’d done something wrong, and they were trying some medications on me.’
It was the late 1980s, and Drewe was nine years old. This was the first New South Wales children’s home he lived in, after his mother put him into care. With other kids to look after, she was unable cope with Drewe’s ‘uncontrollable’ behaviour.
Drewe had been medicated previously for his ADHD, and at first he assumed his mother had sent him to the home to receive a similar kind of treatment.
‘But then after a while, the meds mustn’t have worked on me so much, and I remember what was happening. He used to touch me, and put his mouth on things, and do things that just wasn’t right.’
The orderly ‘told two of us, there was me and another bloke ... he said, listen this treatment I use, if you talk about this treatment we do, you won’t go back to your family’.
Drewe was returned to his mother for a couple of years, but ran away frequently and did not attend school, so was placed in a different children’s home. Ted, a teacher at the home, sexually abused him and another boy in a storage cupboard, on multiple occasions.
‘He used to make us take our clothes off, this was our punishment, and he’d touch us, do really bad things to us ... two of us together, and he [the other boy] was younger than me. And I didn’t like this.’
After a while Drewe escaped from the facility, and took the other boy with him. ‘I had to, the poor kid, he was younger than me, he was petrified.’ They went to stay with a woman Drewe knew, but were caught by police.
Drewe was sent back to the same home, and the sexual abuse started happening again. He did not disclose the abuse to anyone. ‘I felt, how can I put this, I felt horrible, like I was dirty, you just don’t want to talk about that.’
After a while he moved to a different home, where he finally felt safe and looked after. He was around 14 years old by now, and his Department of Community Services (DOCS) case worker, Jeremy Fields, would drive him different places he needed to go.
Fields also sexually abused Drewe. On the way back to the home, ‘he stopped in the middle of the highway and said I owed him something’, before forcing Drewe to masturbate him.
This abuse happened on a number of occasions, until Drewe told another DOCS officer that Fields was treating him badly.
‘She pretty much fobbed me off, said he’s a good manager, he’s alright, but you’re hard to control Drewe, we can’t, like it was my fault. They put it back on me ... I was a kid mate, so what if I was a pain in the butt?’
Years later, Fields came to live near a relative of Drewe’s. Drewe confronted him about the abuse, but he denied it, saying he had always tried to help. Drewe arranged to set fire to Fields’ house, and never saw or heard of Fields again.
Drewe didn’t get much education, but taught himself to read and write when he was older. He has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, attempted suicide a number of times, and has spent time in jail.
Drewe chooses not to have contact with his ex-partner – ‘a beautiful woman’ – and their children. During their relationship ‘I was never there for her, I just kept leaving ... She never knew why. I never told her’. He doesn’t believe he could ever be a good influence on their kids, and thinks it is better that they don’t see him.
For most of his life, Drewe blamed his mother for the sexual abuse he experienced, and hated her for putting him into care. Recently they sat down together and he told her about the abuse. His mother was devastated. ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ she said. ‘I would’ve killed them if I knew they’d done that to you.’
She explained how difficult it had been to care for him when he was young, particularly as she was on the pension and had an abusive husband. Drewe forgave her, and they now have a much better relationship.
Over the years, Drewe got multiple tattoos, and become morbidly obese. He described these physical changes as deliberate attempts to protect himself against further abuse or hurt.
He began getting tattooed when he was 15, so he would be less of a target for paedophiles. ‘That’s what I have to do, I didn’t want to be touched again. I got all this done while I was young, these tattoos. I wanted to try and look a bit tougher and a bit more, you know, not like a little pretty boy.’
Drewe told the Royal Commission that he feels safer being on his own, as ‘no-one will ever hurt me anymore, and I can’t hurt them ... No-one wants to love me, so that’s good’. ‘I’ll tell you what, see I’m a big boy, and I want to be a big boy. I don’t want a relationship anymore.’
Even though it was hard for him to speak to the Commission about the abuse he feels he can’t keep running away from it anymore, and has to try to deal with it. He hopes he can access effective counselling soon.
‘But it’s destroyed my life. Look at this. I’m a fat man, tattooed, with a mental illness ... I’ve got no future. Where am I going to go? What am I going to do? Know what I mean?’