Eli's story

‘I believe you either become one or you’re full of aggression and hate for the world or whatever … and you just take so long to learn how to deal with it, and live with it.’

In the mid 1980s, when Eli was in his early teens, he was put into a state-run boys’ home in regional Queensland. ‘I just got into a little bit of strife as a young fella, and it was a bit hard for Mum to handle on her own.’

He remembered the home as cruel and humiliating. Boys were often made to stand naked in their cells, strip searched and bashed.

Not long after he arrived, Eli was sexually abused. ‘There was an officer there … there was a couple I know of but the main one, he used to pull us out of our beds at night.

‘And it just didn’t stop, you know, it didn’t stop till I left the bloody joint.’

Eli was in the home for three years.

He couldn’t tell the people in authority about the abuse because the perpetrators were the people in authority. Eli said he probably wouldn’t have even told a welfare officer, if he’d ever seen one in the home.

‘I went a bit ballistic after all that, I didn’t know how to deal with it,’ he said. ‘I swore to myself that I would kill anyone that touched me again.’

When Eli finally got out of the boys’ home he was transferred to an adult jail, a decision he still can’t comprehend.

‘You can’t have kids in a man’s jail, you can’t. You’re in with rapists, murderers. And not only that, no one would stick up for you. You’re on your own, you’re fair game. It was frightening, it was terrible. And I just wondered where it was all going to end for me. And it didn’t end, it hasn’t ended.’

After being released there was little inside Eli but rage. He overcame problems with drugs and alcohol, but is still dealing with severe trust and anxiety issues.

It’s often worst for him at night. ‘I can’t sleep with my door closed. I can’t close the door. I find it hell in jail.’

Eli finally spoke about the sexual abuse in his mid 30s, when he was at the end of his rope. ‘I was just hurting a lot of people around me, close friends and family. I was on, like, a suicide mission. I just didn’t want to die with this, not forgiving myself and letting it go.’

Since then, Eli has begun to heal. He’s had unconditional support from his children and his uncle, a man of understanding and compassion, and his mother. ‘She’s just a beautiful woman. She’s taught me how to have hope. I’ve got a lot of hope.’

Eli has never reported the abuse to police, but he has a lawyer who’s helping him with his welfare file and a potential compensation claim.

He said that he didn’t really want to come to the Royal Commission, but decided it might do some good. ‘My story’s a small one but, I don’t know, I just thought maybe it might help someone else.’

Eli suggested that CCTV cameras in rooms and cells may be a way to keep young people in detention safer. ‘Having 24-hour surveillance would’ve helped a lot. Definitely, 100 per cent would’ve helped. It probably would’ve prevented a lot of things.’

And he’d like young inmates to have access to a safe place where they can talk to someone and make reports or complaints about anything.

When he first started talking to the Commissioner about the sexual abuse, Eli said, ‘I don’t see how anything helps with it. Nothing’s really helping with it, it just has got a bit easier to live with’.

But after telling his story he said a weight had been lifted. ‘It’s obviously getting a little bit better now. I feel a bit better already. It can be helped, you’re right. Some of us can be helped, definitely.

‘I’m very lucky, I’ve got a lot of support. I’ve got a lot of people that care about me and that already know what I’ve been through. It’s going to keep me going, that’s for sure.’

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