Enzo has had trouble accessing his file from what used to be New South Wales’ Child Welfare Office. That means there is much about his childhood he still doesn’t fully understand. To begin with, why were he and his two siblings taken from their mother as very young children? He believes it may have been determined that his mother was of ‘bad character’, and unfit to care for them.
The children were moved from institution to institution and eventually Enzo was separated from his siblings. Why were they separated? Enzo doesn’t know.
He spent some years at an Anglican-run orphanage, and then at a boys’ home run by the same Anglican organisation. He was placed in a foster home for a while, then returned to the boys’ home. He left there as an 18-year-old, in the early 1970s. He’d been living in institutions for about 15 years by then.
Enzo had several specific experiences he wanted to tell the Royal Commission about. The first of these took place at the orphanage, when Enzo was about eight.
The orphanage was ‘almost like jail’, Enzo said. Intimidation and threats - ‘If you tell anyone I’ll bash you’ – were commonplace. If you were found to be acting up in any way you’d be sent to bed, morning, noon or night. One day Enzo was ordered to bed. It was late morning. He found himself alone in the dormitory with a much older boy, who raped him.
‘After I re-gathered my thoughts, there was no one I told because I didn’t want to get a flogging’, Enzo said. ‘I was unsure of the people who ran the place anyway. As best as I can remember I just sobbed for a while.’
He later told another older boy about the incident, and it didn’t happen again.
It was this episode that prompted Enzo to contact the Royal Commission. ‘I wanted the Commission to be aware of that type of event. Big boy on little boy, type of thing.’
The other experience he particularly wanted to talk about came later, when he was placed in foster care with Jan and Marvin Templeton, a couple with two young children of their own and several other children from the boys’ home in their charge. Enzo lived with the family for about 18 months, but when they wanted to adopt him he chose to return to the institution instead.
His time at the Templetons had been characterised by their ‘overt sexual behaviour and constant innuendo’, he explained. ‘A kiss goodnight was almost a passionate embrace. … It was just overly sexual.’
The 12-year-old Enzo found it deeply confusing. ‘Sometimes with issues of sexuality – even things that you know are wrong can be pleasurable. Now by that I mean I think I learned how to kiss because of the way Jan Templeton used to kiss me good night. It had its own pleasure. Not that I sought it, not that I necessarily wanted it.’
Enzo was also concerned by a friend of the Templetons, Father Wexley. He would take boys on visits to his place, choosing whoever he wanted to. ‘He managed to have – I used to call it a smorgasbord’, Enzo observed.
‘There was indications that something was a little bit odd. … One time he had a shower and came out and put the towel on the lounge room floor and laid on his big fat belly and asked me did I want to give him a massage. I didn’t.’
Father Wexley was eventually moved from the parish to another one not far away. But he retained his access to boys and later on a 13-year-old from the boys’ home moved in with him.
When Enzo told the matron at the boys’ home that he didn’t want to stay with the Templetons, he reported both their disturbing behaviour and Father Wexley’s. ‘It’s probably the biggest dilemma I’ve faced in my life’, he said. He believes she spoke to Father Wexley but that no other action was taken. There was no one else Enzo could tell.
‘I had no communication of any description with anyone from the government in all the time I was institutionalised. Nobody came and said “How’re you going”; nobody said ‘Anything you want to whinge about?” Nothing. Didn’t exist.’
Enzo has not sought compensation for his experiences and has not received counselling. Nor has he felt a need to keep what happened to him a secret.
‘I’ve felt shame, I’ve felt disappointment, I’ve felt a whole heap of different emotions and things like that but, I don’t know, I’ve always been open about my life. This is who I am, this is where I’m from, this is what I think … I’ve had many people through my life who’ve heard me whinge about Father Wexley.’
Enzo has had several careers and now works as a health practitioner. He lives with his ex-partner and their child. It’s an unusual arrangement but it works – Enzo describes them as a ‘peculiar little happy little family’.
‘I had an acute understanding of the importance of two parents, because of my own life’, he said.
After being taken from his mother, Enzo didn’t see her again until his early 20s.
‘It was fine. It’s not a case of blame … I think from about the age of 20 I decided we’re only human and we’re all weak. But she was actually quite a decent person … Silly life choices, and that type of thing … Looking for love, I think.’