As a result of his parents’ drinking and fighting, Fisher said his family was ‘well-known’ to Child Services. In the late 70s, when he became a ward of the state around the age of six, his siblings were already in care.
‘My mother couldn’t cope with us, apparently,’ he said. ‘The reason I went into care was my mother tried to drug me with tablets.’
After several years Fisher was placed in an Anglican-run children’s home in Brisbane, where he was sexually abused by a female house parent. He remembered waking up to find her hand on his genitals.
There was physical abuse, too, with the children being severely punished for minor misbehaviour. Fisher said he hated the place. ‘I just wanted to go home … so I ran away all the time. I was a little shit. But I was just angry.’
When he was in his early teens and living in a Boystown home further south, Fisher was sexually abused by one of the Brothers.
‘I’ll remember his face for the rest of my life.’
The children were on a camp and the man came into Fisher’s tent while he was asleep. Fisher recalled a second Brother standing at the entrance to the tent, acting as a look-out. When Fisher realised what was happening he said he told them to ‘Eff off’. ‘I wasn’t going to lay there.’
But while that Brother didn’t come near him again, there was more sexual abuse in the home. The boys were often made to stand in a line and drop their pants so their genitals could be inspected for ‘health reasons’. Fisher said this happened to him at least three times.
Again, there was also significant physical abuse by the staff. Fisher talked about being bashed, hit with straps and having his fingers nearly broken. ‘I was scared of the Brothers and the kids ‘cause I didn’t ask to go there.’
Fisher said he didn’t report the sexual abuse when caseworkers from Children’s Services came to the home because he didn’t think other adults would do anything to help. ‘They just did their visit … I didn’t like ‘em. All I wanted to do was go home.’
The one good thing to come out of this time for Fisher was being sent to a foster home on weekends. ‘They gave me a stable family life. They’re just lovely people. It was great, I didn’t want to go back.’
Fisher is still in touch with his foster mother - ‘I call her “Mum” today’ – and, along with his wife, she’s one of his strongest supporters.
After getting out of care Fisher went through some tough times. He didn’t get much of an education and always had trouble learning new tasks, which meant he moved from job to job. His violent temper caused him to lose his family, and he lived on the streets for a while.
Fisher still has problems with alcohol and he’s been diagnosed with depression. ‘I’m on tablets for the rest of my life, I know that. I know, when I stop taking them, things start getting to me again.’
But a few years ago Fisher realised he had to deal with the abuse. ‘I was sick of feeling anxious all the time. I hate getting angry … so I did something about it.’
He saw a psychologist and started going to counselling, as well as reading a lot and educating himself. And he managed to repair the relationship with his children.
‘I’ve worked through my anger issues, I’ve done my anger management. I’ve sat down and talked to them about what it was like and that.
‘I’ve told them everything.’
Fisher has never reported the abuse to police but he did sue the Catholic boys’ home and received some compensation. But while his solicitors were good, Fisher felt that the process was rushed and he was pressured into accepting a settlement. He was a little shocked at the size of the legal fees, too.
Fisher also received an apology from the Brothers, but said it meant little. ‘I think it was just a speech, said to everybody. He couldn’t even look me in the eye.
‘I hate the Church. Absolutely hate them.’
Fisher has done a lot of healing but knows there’s more to do. He told the Commissioner that he no longer lets the memories of the abuse overwhelm him, but he always thinks about it.
‘It shouldn’t have been done. I trusted the Brothers.’