‘I’m a state ward. When I was younger – I think just after birth – I was fostered into a foster home but then I got adopted at the age of 11 and then I got taken away at the age of 14 or 15 from there and that’s when I went to [the boys’ home]. I don’t know my mum. There’s no record of my dad.’
In the mid-1990s at the age of 11, Dwayne was adopted into the Brisbane home of John and Janine Denison. Janine was ‘a lovely lady’, while John was a police officer who’d get drunk and physically assault his wife and Dwayne. After one particularly severe beating, Dwayne went to school with three broken ribs, a broken nose and bruises over his body. His injuries were reported to Queensland Department of Community Services (DOCS) workers who acted to remove him from the Denison home.
Dwayne told the Commissioner he was put back into short-term foster care for a few months and once again became a state ward. He was then sent to a boys’ home run by the De La Salle Brothers. He stayed there for 18 months and enjoyed the first three, but he was then introduced to Brother Ted Coleman.
On his 14th birthday, Dwayne was told by Brother Ted that he could have any present he liked but only if he rubbed Brother Ted’s penis. ‘He goes, “Don’t worry, it’s allowed, everyone does it – it’s a ritual as you get older”’. When Dwayne refused, Brother Ted said, “What about if I rub you on the penis?’ Again Dwayne said no, ‘but he still done it anyway’.
Thereafter, Brother Ted targeted Dwayne for punishment and abuse. When Dwayne returned from a weekend at a friend’s house with a bottle of alcohol, he was sent to a confinement room and told by Brother Ted that he’d need to be accompanied to the toilet to ‘hold your dick while you piss’. Dwayne told him to ‘fuck off’.
After 12 hours, Dwayne urinated on the floor. Brother Ted come into the room with another Brother and held Dwayne down, rubbing his face in the urine. They told him, ‘This is what we do to dogs’ and that he’d stay in there another 12 hours ‘unless you come and let us both touch your dick’.
From then, the sexual abuse continued and over the next year and a half, Dwayne was assaulted about 100 times.
‘Most of the time what would happen is I’d have to stay behind at the home because I had nowhere to go over the holidays and that. And a lot of the time, fucking, sorry for swearing, that’s when it used to happen and there used to be sometimes five, six, seven of them. They weren’t normal people from the home. They didn’t work there …
‘It didn’t really stop. I ran away from there. The first time I ran away from there was after I’d been in that lock-in room for 12 hours and I went with them and they done sexual things with me. I ran away. I told my Department of Community Service worker that I didn’t want to go back there. I wouldn’t tell her why. And I got taken back there. Another time I got grabbed by a police officer and he was one of the ones that used to come with [the Brothers] so I couldn’t tell them. I had no one to tell. Ah fuck, this is hard to talk about.’
At the end of the 1990s, Brother Ted was suddenly sent overseas, a move Dwayne thought came about after complaints of abuse were made about him.
At 16, Dwayne left the home with accommodation arranged in a shared house owned by the Brothers. On his fourth night, he awoke to find someone trying to fellate him. He reported it to DOCS staff but they told him he was ‘a liar’.
‘They go, “Listen there’s nothing we can do, you’re not a state of the ward anymore. You’re an adult”. They go, “We found you a place in a youth hostel”, put me there, but the rent was $115 a week and they only just give me $107 so I couldn’t afford it so I had to live on the streets. I just started using heroin a lot and that’s all I done – done crime and used heroin.’
Dwayne spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he’d spent about 14 of his 32 years, mainly for sentences related to larceny. ‘Stealing money, purses, wallets, phones. They just used to give me six months, nine months and I’d be out for a few days and I’d get caught doing another one. This is the biggest sentence now I’ve ever had. I got seven and a half years with four on the bottom. That was for a robbery – it was a drug deal gone wrong.’
He’d recently started seeing a counsellor and had completed a program that dealt with addictive behaviours and aggression. ‘I’ve learned a lot from it. I’m going to a rehab when I get out. I’ve asked them to put me in a rehab. I’ve been clean the whole time I’ve been in here. I’ve been in for four years, one month. I have not touched anything. I’ve had plenty of opportunities. I’ve just said, “No, I’ve had enough”. I‘ve wasted all me life in jail.’
Talking about the abuse with the counsellor had been difficult. ‘It sort of made it worse to be honest with you, like before, now I’m in a one-out cell placement. Before I was in a cell with another person. Since I brought that up, I started having night terrors, waking up screaming in the middle of the night. I kept thinking about it all the time. I kept thinking, why? How could I have changed it? How could I have stopped it from happening? Why couldn’t I have done this? Why couldn’t I have done that? ….
‘Speaking does sort of help but I don’t know, it’s ups and down. Some days it’s good but some days it’s real bad. It’s all worth it in the end. They’re not getting away with what they done to me. I’ve kept quiet for half my life. That’s it, it’s enough.’