For many years Edwin was sexually abused by his stepfather, Bill Kent, in the family home. Kent was a convicted paedophile in three states of Australia and one of the many charges brought against him had been for sexually abusing Edwin’s sister. The three siblings in the house were made wards of the Queensland State and in the early 1980s, Edwin’s sister and brother were removed and put into state-based care. Edwin was 10 years old at the time and for reasons he still can’t understand he was left in the home where he continued to be sexually abused by Kent for six more years.
‘I reported what was happening to child guidance and pretty much straightaway after I told them what happened they went straight out and asked my parents if this was true, and they said, “No”, and nothing else happened.
‘Every time Bill got out of jail they just let him come straight back where there’s kids and keep doing what he was doing. It seemed to me, how can you take two kids out of a home and leave one behind? It doesn’t make sense to me. It never has and it made me feel like I wasn’t wanted by the system.’
Edwin believed his mother knew her children were being abused by Kent but felt powerless to do anything about it.
‘She was getting physically abused herself’, Edwin said. ‘It was to the point I witnessed my mum try to kill herself to get away from it, and even today I feel if she left him, she wouldn’t be alive.’
Edwin spoke to the Commissioner from a Queensland jail where he was serving a lengthy sentence. Although he’d become eligible for parole, authorities deemed his lack of support outside jail as reason to reject his parole application. For some time he’d been requesting an interstate prison transfer so that he could be closer to a brother who’d offer him support, but these applications had been rejected.
As an adult, he’d never reported Kent’s abuse to police and though he had thoughts of doing so, he feared that Kent, if convicted, would end up in the same jail as him.
In jail, Edwin continued to experience flashbacks to the abuse. ‘Even in here, ‘cause it wasn’t just the sexual and physical abuse, it was being locked up in a cupboard, so to me a prison cell’s no different. At the same time I understand what I done was wrong and I’m being punished for that and I accept responsibility for that.’
Apart from his early disclosure to Queensland child protection services, Edwin hadn’t told anyone about the abuse until he mentioned it to lawyers at the time of his court case. It had no bearing on the judge’s decision and he was given a long sentence. He’d since spoken to mental health staff about his nightmares, low self-esteem, the difficulties he had trusting people, and his inability to maintain relationships.
‘I’ve been speaking to prison mental health and for years and years I’ve kept it quiet and I just wanted to let it all out. And considering I’m due for parole I just wanted to get it out and try to have some sort of life … I thought if I can open up about what happened to me, maybe I can stop this happening to someone else.’
He remained concerned that there might be children in the community whose safety was still being ignored, like his was.
‘I feel these people in these positions that turn a blind eye for so long, I think the world should start holding them accountable. Like here we are talking about duty of care in the legal system, well where’s the legal duty of care for child safety by not acting? They keep letting sex offenders go back to where there’s kids. You’re pretty much telling us it’s okay to do these things when it’s not. The way I look at it, I used to be really good at school till this all happened. Now, that kid they turned a blind eye on could be someone great in this country, so they let down someone that could be important which isn’t right.’