Eddie had ‘a pretty good upbringing’ but became involved in criminal behaviour in the early 1980s, and ended up in adult jail in Queensland when he was 17. ‘After the first week of being there, I was assaulted with a chair, just in the mess hall, because you know, I was a young boy in with the grown men.’
Even though he was only on remand, Eddie was mixing with sentenced prisoners, ‘and at some stage … I was always taken out of the yard and sent to the barber shop for a haircut that I didn’t need, and on numerous occasions I was sexually assaulted there by three prisoners’.
As a result of this abuse Eddie contracted a venereal disease, ‘which will be on my prison file’. After he developed the infection, Eddie was sent to hospital. ‘The most embarrassing thing for me … [was] being made fun of at the hospital [by the] prison officers at the time.’
The sexual abuse continued until Eddie was 18 and he became a sentenced prisoner. He was then able to get a job within the prison and ‘take myself away from those people … And I’ve never spoken about it to anybody, ever. No one knows about it until now. And this is something I’ve had to live with’.
Someone at the jail must have told the superintendent what had happened ‘because I did get called in and got questioned, but … I was in a situation where I couldn’t really say anything. I just had to deny it because … I was going to be in jail for a long time, so I just couldn’t afford to put myself in that position, to tell them at the time’.
Eddie believes that some of the prison officers were complicit in his abuse, and he ‘hold[s] them responsible as well, because you know, to get me to the barber shop, I couldn’t have just let myself out and walked there … There’s three blokes in there. He knows damn well … And they’re closing the gate and walking away.
‘I’m locked in there, with three men in a barber shop. They knew full well what was going on. It was obviously lined up … because there was more than one [officer].’
He told the Commissioner, ‘I really can’t trust anybody anymore. Obvious things like … I can’t go to the toilet in front of anybody. I don’t like to get undressed in front of anybody. And being back in jail, it makes it even harder … I’ve just learnt to live with it’.
Eddie has problems relating to people, ‘especially homosexuals’, and this caused issues during the 20 years he spent out of jail. When he discovered that one of his in-laws was gay it ‘caused rifts within the whole family, thinking I was anti-social and you know, a homophobe and all that sort of stuff, but I had my reasons. So it did cause me grief’.
The sexual abuse Eddie experienced has given him nightmares, even though he has tried to block out the memories. ‘I tried to block it out and just carry on with my life, but it does re-occur, comes back. It’s just something that you can’t totally forget about … I spent [over 10] years in jail and I learnt to block a lot of things out … Being in this situation, it pays to try and forget about things.’
Eddie believes that if he had access to a lawyer, or had been able to have his parents present when he was being questioned, he would never have been put in adult jail when he was 17.
‘I’ve said it nearly all my life, that I couldn’t drive a car, I couldn’t go to a pub, but I could go to prison … and mix with hardened criminals and you know, be interrogated by CIB detectives without a solicitor or parent or anything … because I was classed as an adult at 17. And now, it’s starting to change.’
Eddie is hoping to undergo some counselling now he has attended his session at the Royal Commission. ‘I just feel a little bit better now, just to speak out, because when I [spoke] to the counsellor [who] come and see me a few weeks ago, I really didn’t have much to say to him, because I sort of requested that I wait till I spoke to you, and then I’ll go from there.’