Errol is not sure why he was placed in an orphanage in Queensland when he was five. He spent two or three years there in the late 1960s, and thinks he may have been there earlier as a baby. He only recently discovered that the woman he thought was his birth mother, wasn’t.
Life in the orphanage ‘started to go good … [until] I put my hand up to be an altar boy. I thought it would be a good thing’. Instead, Errol was sexually abused by two priests over a period of two years.
‘[The altar boys] used to go there earlier, before everybody else went to church … and I don’t know why I had to confess my sins … I didn’t do no sins. I had to go into the sin boxes, the confessional sin boxes, and I’d confess my sins. I didn’t know what to confess … What had I done, you know?’
Errol was abused in the confessional at the back of the church, or under the stairs at the orphanage. ‘They break you … inside … Who give them permission to do that?’
On one occasion some older boys tried to abuse him, and when he resisted, they abused two others at the orphanage. None of it was ever reported.
After spending time in a number of different children’s homes, Errol was eventually released when he was 12. He then began getting into trouble and from the age of 17 has spent ‘half me life in jail ... I’m just getting angry at the rest of the world, that’s my [problem]. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody you know.’
Errol has never spoken about the abuse. ‘I’ve kept it bottled up inside me for too long … too much shame.’
During the times he’s been out of jail, he’s been treated for mental health issues, but had never revealed the abuse.
He felt he’d lost his Aboriginal culture in the orphanage and had been forbidden to speak the language of his family and ancestors. He was now ‘trying to find his own healing path’.
Errol told the Commissioner that his artwork gives him the strength to keep going, and he also has a large number of grandchildren, ‘and I want to look after them’.
The one thing that Errol really wants is ‘closure’. He would like to find his old records but ‘I don’t even know me name … I want to find my real mum, where she is, what happened.’