‘I’m sorry I’m like this. I’ve never had to tell the story. I never wanted to, but …’
Around 1950, when Floyd was about 10, his divorced mother took her children to live with their grandparents in Sydney. ‘The grandparents didn't want us’, he said. ‘And in those days there was no social security for the divorced, so she had to go to work.’ Consequently, Floyd and his brother Don were placed in a Methodist children’s home near Sydney. ‘I was there for nearly five years’, he said. ‘Half that time was hell.’
Floyd, who was ‘only a little squirt of a kid’, was initially assigned to the junior dormitory. ‘I was belted by bigger kids’, he said. ‘I was belted by the superintendent, and caned. I had nobody to turn to. I had a little brother in there … He was only a baby. So it was a very harrowing time for me.’
Since their grandparents didn’t want them, Floyd and Don had to spend Christmas in the children’s home. One Christmas, Floyd was sexually abused by Jerry Austin, one of the ‘big boys’ they had to room with.
‘The first two nights he got into my bed and molested me, well and truly. And on the third night … when he got into my bed, I jumped out and ran out of the room. I went down the hallway and I slept in a broom cupboard that night.’
The next day, a woman he knew as ‘Sister’ found him in the cupboard, crying and upset. She moved him to a different dorm, and he never saw much of Jerry again. ‘I don't know what happened to him. But that's what happened to me. And it's always been in my mind. You don't get over something like that.’
Floyd had a ‘terrifying’ time at the home. To escape the superintendent’s cane, and the boys who used to bully him, he would run away to his grandparents’ place, or hide underneath the main building.
‘I used to be able to go through the bushes, open the little door and hide in there’, he said. ‘I got a sack from down at the milking sheds and put in there. I used to read comics and go to sleep, and sometimes pinch food, and go and eat it in there.’
Apart from Sister, and his then girlfriend, Floyd never told anyone about the sexual and physical abuse. ‘I was on my own. I had nobody. I couldn't talk to my mother about it, because she had her own problems’, he said. ‘I had a few mates … but we never used to discuss what was happening to us.’
In the mid-1950s, Floyd left the home and went to live with his mother, who had married again. Educationally, he was about two years behind, but he secured an apprenticeship, and went on to work in various jobs until his retirement in his mid-60s. ‘I've had a good working life. I've got no regrets.'
Even though Floyd just got on with life, there was always ‘something there’. He said that he got ‘down in the dumps’, and held on to his bad marriage because he didn’t want to let his children down.
‘No matter what my wife got up to, I forgave her ... It was only after the boys had all left home that I eventually left her. I just did not want my sons going through what I went through. And so that's why I tried to keep the family together all that time.’
Floyd has attended several reunions at the children’s home. He listened to other men and women speak of similar abuse they had suffered in the home, but he did not disclose to them. He attended the ceremony in which an apology was extended to Forgotten Australians, but left there ‘feeling down’ because a lot of the people he had known had died, including his brother Don.
He never disclosed to his family, has no interest in reporting the matter to the police, and only brought his story to the Commission in the hope that it might ‘substantiate’ the stories of other former residents at the home.
‘It's a story that had to be told. It's upset me a lot. Quite a lot … Yes, to talk about it really upsets me. That's probably why I've never talked.’
Floyd is now in his 70s, and lives alone in a ‘little sanctuary’ within a retirement village. He is in good health, and keeps busy doing volunteer work and participating in social groups. He is not close to most of his adult children, but he does have a ‘great team’ of grandchildren.
He puts his longevity down to his good attitude. ‘I think positive. Every day.’