‘Despite the very difficult circumstances I had experienced in leaving my family and homeland, I was unaware of the trauma, pain and deceit I was going to experience whilst in the care of an organisation that was given the care of looking after me. It was the start of a nightmare that I still relive every night of my life.’
In England in the late 1940s, when Elwyn was only a year old, he and his older brother were put into a children’s home after being taken from their mother. ‘Stolen’, Elwyn told the Commissioner.
He believes an aunt had local authorities remove the boys because she was unable to have children of her own and was jealous of his mother. In a written submission supplied to the Royal Commission, Elwyn wrote, ‘I was 10 years old before I knew I had a mother, and only then found out because she had continued to search for me’.
Elwyn didn’t see his mother again until the mid-1970s.
He has no memory of his life in the first few years after being taken away. Elwyn later learnt from his brother that they lived in homes and foster care before being sent to Australia in the 1950s under the Child Migrant Scheme.
Elwyn also discovered that the aunt had told his mother that the boys were already in Australia when in fact, they were still living in England.
Elwyn was almost eight when he and his brother arrived at a children’s home on a farm in Western Australia. They were housed in a cottage overseen by the ‘cottage mother’, a woman Elwyn described as a ‘total bitch’.
‘The abuse actually started from the first week I was in Australia. And when I used to tell her about it she would just keep saying “You’re telling lies” and out she’d come with her cane and whack hell out of you. She would never believe what was going on.’
Elwyn became a target for a group of older boys who would habitually molest and rape him. ‘Being a small victim I was sought out and abused for their “pleasure” – I could never get away from it …
‘It happened several times a week for eight long and desperately sad years, even after I reported it to the principal.’ But the man’s response, like the cottage mother’s, was to cane Elwyn for lying.
‘They ignored it. This is the whole point of it all. They ignored everything that was told to them. They would not believe a word of it.’
Elwyn told the Commissioner, ‘I know they knew what was going on, and the pain of the caning is still raw to me, but the pain of them ignoring what was happening to me and then punishing me for it is indescribable’.
The staff didn’t stop at physical abuse. Elwyn talked about a priest who sexually abused boys in his quarters. He wrote that the man ‘carried out his fantasies on kids, on me’.
Elwyn had no one to turn to. Even his brother couldn’t protect him. ‘I think he knew some of what was going on but … some of the boys were a lot bigger and older than him and they sort of kept him in his place. In other words, “If you open your mouth you’ll get a hammering as well”. So he never really stood up for me at all.’
Elwyn ran away from the home ‘more times than I care to remember’, but didn’t know where to go. And every time he was brought back, he’d be brutally punished with more physical and sexual abuse.
In his mid-teens Elwyn finally got out of the home and tried to get on with his life. He later became a husband and father but the marriage didn’t last. When another relationship broke up in the 1970s, he returned to England.
‘I could not have a proper relationship. And I haven’t had a proper relationship since I’ve been home.’
Several years ago Elwyn received compensation from the Western Australian government, but doesn’t believe it was nearly adequate for what he went through. He said that more money would never take away what happened, but it would mean that he didn’t have to rely on his meagre pension.
It would also mean that he could come back to Australia to see his kids and meet his grandchildren.
More than 50 years since he left the home, Elwyn still feels terrified. He suffers from severe depression and said that he often thinks about taking his own life.
‘If I am on my own at night, it seems the only way out, to die and get away from the pain … I suppose the trouble is – it’s like when I was in the children’s home, I didn’t have the guts – I haven’t got the guts to do it.’
Elwyn is now getting support from the Child Migrants Trust and investigating the possibility of further compensation for the crimes against him. He also has a great love of ballroom dancing and dances with a partner several times a week. He is doing his best to hang on.
‘I’m not going to give up,’ he told the Commissioner. ‘But as they say, you can’t stop thinking, can you?’