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Eric Michael's story

‘I was basically looking for a father figure. Someone to look up to.’

Eric grew up in south western Sydney. His dad used to bash him when he was little, and he thinks this made him vulnerable to anyone who took an interest in him. In the early 1990s, when he was 15, he started doing a course at a local Aboriginal cultural centre.

‘At the same time, there was a juvenile justice officer worker, he was running courses as well. And he had an office built beside the actual cultural centre.’

This officer, Bryan Campbell, took a particular interest in Eric. He used to give Eric money, and allowed him to drive his car.

Eric would sometimes stay at the centre after class, and Campbell would also be there. ‘One time he asked me to stay there, and help him look after the place and that.’ Campbell then sexually abused him.

This abuse continued over a period of six weeks, ending when Eric stopped going to the cultural centre. He never saw Campbell again.

Campbell had threatened Eric not to tell anyone about the abuse, saying ‘if I was to tell anyone, I was going to do jail time ... He was a juvenile justice officer, he could make things happen'.

Unable to concentrate at school, Eric was placed in special classes, and suspended because of his poor behaviour. ‘I had no trust. I couldn’t trust anybody. I was very surprised I could hold down a 10-year relationship. I started taking drugs ... [committing] crime. Started just rebelling.’

When Eric was 24, he experienced a breakdown and was admitted to a mental health facility. He did not disclose the abuse to the people treating him.

In his mid-20s, Eric told his brother about what Campbell had done to him. ‘I didn’t know what to say, like, how can you tell someone something like that?’

Around the same time Eric reported the abuse to his probation and parole officer, who tried to assist him, speaking with police on his behalf.

Arrangements were made for Eric to see a detective, so that he could make a formal statement. However, because of his own troubles with the law, he decided not to go ahead with this statement at that time.

Eric later disclosed the abuse to his mother, who found it hard to deal with. ‘My mum, she couldn’t listen to it, she didn’t want to hear it.’ He told his ex-girlfriend too, ‘but I didn’t really go into detail’.

Eric has never applied for compensation, and does not believe money would change anything. He is not very interested in receiving an apology from Campbell. ‘A person can say sorry, but will they really mean it? I mean, he shouldn’t have done that to start with.’ An apology from Juvenile Justice would mean even less, as he places the blame directly with Campbell.

Since Eric first contacted the Royal Commission he has begun seeing a counsellor, and finds this helpful. He now feels ‘I shouldn’t be ashamed about it, I shouldn’t be angry with myself. It’s not my fault it happened.’

Eric recommended that there should always be a support person present when a juvenile justice officer has contact with a young person. He would like to see Campbell held responsible for the abuse, and is in the process of contacting police, even though he finds it hard to speak with them.

‘I just want to get it over with, get it out of my head. Deal with it.’ Seeing Campbell brought to justice is very important to him.

‘I would like to see him suffer, all the years that I suffered, behind bars.’

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