Elias wrote to Prime Minister Julia Gillard in 2012 that he’d gone through ‘bloody hell and back in these hell holes’.
He’d missed the deadline to lodge an application to the Queensland redress scheme. It had been emotionally gruelling to write details of the harm done to him and he wanted the prime minister to ask the Queensland Government to reconsider his late application.
‘I finally went through the darkest, most horrific parts of my mind to recall things I’ve never spoken of, nor tried to think about, and I wrote it all down to send off’.
Elias was admitted to a Brisbane hospital with head injuries in the early 1980s. He was made a ward of the state and endured a string of residencies in various boys’ homes.
He also asked in his letter if he could speak to the ‘powers that be’ about the abuse in the homes. ‘Can I speak to the Royal Enquiry please?’
Elias did finally speak to the Royal Commission about the abuse he suffered. ‘I just come forward in case somebody else needed it … Youse can put it all together as a whole.’
He recited the names of the boy’s homes which included two state-run homes and two faith-based homes: one run by the Uniting Church; the other by the De la Salle Brothers.
He was sexually abused in three of them. He ran away from the first home after he was smacked in the face for not eating his veggies. That place had a seclusion room where kids were locked up. Luckily for Elias, one kind female staffer sometimes took him home on weekends because he had no one else.
His mother, who was a sex worker and heroin addict, visited Elias only sporadically. ‘She lived her own life.’
After he was sexually abused by two older boys he was moved to the Catholic home at age 11. He was a year too young to be there but there was nowhere else for him to go. Once there, Brother Maynard treated him ‘all right’ apart from putting his hands down his pants. Brother Michaels was physically violent and chased Elias with a knife after he’d teased a boy, eventually knocking him to the ground.
‘I was sittin’ there screaming, “I’m sorry Brother Michaels, I’m sorry Brother Michaels”.’ The Brother yelled back, ‘You’re not fuckin’ sorry’ and then back-handed him.
‘I flew across the room, hit the wall and onto the bed. Which is where he laid some punches in … He shouldn’t be doin’ that … I always thought Catholics were supposed to be nice, kind.’
The Uniting Church home, where Elias stayed twice, was the worst place by far. Older boys forced Elias and his best friend John to give them oral sex and Elias was regularly beaten by the staff. Elias and John ran away a few times but were always sent back.
Elias became emotional when he talked about what happened during their last escape attempt. It occurred before either were teenagers. An injury had forced Elias to give up the escape attempt and limp back to the home, but John stayed out all night, too scared to go back and cop a beating. He was found dead the next day.
‘Out of all the things in my life, that one single thing I can’t get out of my head.’
Elias believes staff from the home could have picked John up the day before he was killed. They knew where the boys usually met up. ‘And he wouldn’t have been murdered.’
One of Elias’s main reasons for talking to the Commission was to tell John’s story. He was determined to bear witness for him. His grief at his mate’s death met with no sympathy from the staff. His file notes from the time say that he was obsessed with death and stabbings and ‘he’s hiding knives under the bed’.
He was in fear, hence the knife, ‘but nobody listened’. Elias wept at the thought of his friend.
Elias hasn’t received counselling for what happened to him. He’s seen a psychiatrist but only told him half of what happened. ‘I’m embarrassed about a lot of it, you know? … I feel uncomfortable talking about it.’
He blocks a lot from his mind and hasn’t reported any of the staff. ‘What for? … Back then it was just acceptable.’
Elias has been in jail as a result of crimes he carried out to feed a drug addiction. He’s been diagnosed with severe anxiety and traits of obsessive compulsive disorder.
Has he had any good times? ‘Yeah. When my kids were born, things were good.’
Elias has been out of jail for a while now and has a job. He relates well to his kids and is hoping he can get a place where they can visit. He worries about them and is very happy that they’ve only known family care, not institutional care.
‘Stability, you know? I had no stability … I had 19 primary schools.’
Elias recommended to the Commission that punishment at institutions be more age appropriate. He also believes that any redress scheme should have more flexibility with their cut-off dates.