Euan was made a ward of the state as a toddler. He ‘linked’ to his mother in his teenage years but has never found his father.
In the mid-1940s Euan was placed into a Melbourne Salvation Army boys’ home, living there for over 10 years. The home was a violent place, and this became more evident as he grew up.
Being the only Aboriginal child there made Euan particularly vulnerable, and he remembers being an ‘item of interest’ to both the older boys and staff. By the time he was 10 he was already subject to physical abuse and racism. He was ‘punched around the head’, ‘bashed’ and caned several times in his years at the home.
At 11 Euan changed dormitories, remaining in this new room for several years. During this period he was sexually abused by multiple perpetrators.
‘I became a bit of a pet for older kids because they always wanted to see the colour of my funk.’
Euan was sexually abused by two Salvation Army workers for five years, and also by older boys. This abuse included mutual masturbation, fondling and anal sex. He is unsure how many times he was abused, and never told anyone what was happening to him.
Despite having experienced this ‘hardship’ Euan never absconded or wanted to run away. He felt this place was his ‘home’ and he didn’t know anything more.
When he was discharged from the home in the late 1950s this came as a shock. Next he was placed into foster care for two years, until he turned 17. He was able to find a retail job and worked part-time.
As a young man Euan immersed himself in the performing arts, and featured in a number of successful performances. This career success has changed his life, and helped him to cope and survive.
At one stage he had a relationship with a man but couldn’t intimately connect with his partner. Often he wonders if he is gay because of the sexual abuse he experienced. He regrets not ever having kids.
Euan connected with his Aboriginal roots when he tracked down his mother. He found it ‘really hard’ to re-discover himself and he got ‘caught up with a bad crowd’. For many years he drank heavily, and then became addicted to heroin.
From his late teens Euan was involved in criminal activity, and he has served several prison terms. He found jail to be ‘okay’. During his incarceration he was able to educate himself, and also benefited from drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. He was released from prison in the mid-1970s. ‘When I came out, I never reverted back to alcohol. I stuck with that program … but I took drugs instead.’
After being involved in a burglary, Euan was sent back to jail. While in custody Euan was approached by a few men who had attended the same boys’ institution as him. One man asked for his support in a class action against the Salvation Army.
This was the first time in his life that Euan was able to disclose the details of his abuse. He and the other prisoners ‘opened up a can of worms’, which helped him significantly.
Being a part of the case against the Salvation Army was a pivotal moment in Euan’s journey of acceptance. He was able to connect with other Aboriginal men as well as the boys – his ‘family’ – that were at the home with him. He has now been to several reunions and found these to be positive experiences.
‘Many boys I don’t remember but they remember me. I enjoy these meetings because I have to be that person for them to talk to. That’s the element that’s helped me go through it with a clear understanding of the whole picture.’
Euan has embraced his Aboriginal culture and is proud of his position in his community, believing that sometimes a person has ‘to go through hard times in order to become a leading light for others’. He has ‘reframed’ his experiences and often helps other men who have been sexually abused with speaking up and moving forward.