In the mid-1960s, Fulton and his older brother were sent by their father to a Salvation Army boys’ home in southern New South Wales.
‘I just remember, one day my mum’s not around. My parents separated I think when I was four years old. And then next thing I know I’m bundled off to my aunty’s place … and then I’m in the car driving down to [the home].
‘Once I went inside, we were taken to a room, and it had all these boxes around the walls … and your toys went into a box. And I never saw them after that … your teddy bears and stuff, that was the last you saw of them. Never had toys.’
Fulton said the home was a very regimented place where kids were not allowed to be kids.
‘Lots of time by yourself in rooms. Lots of isolation. Being forced to eat foods that you disliked, and vomiting. And then being forced to eat that. That’s a memory.
‘When you see pictures of me at that age … I was very emaciated. I was skin and bone. Absolute skin and bone.’
There was physical abuse in the home too, particularly from one staff member, a man Fulton described as ‘very cruel’.
‘I recall just being constantly beaten, smacked … in front of the other boys and in isolation as well.’
Fulton remembered one day when he was taken out of the line for the showers and put over the man’s lap. ‘At one point, it must have just been too much, I actually urinated over him. He got up, yelled abuse … I don’t recall what happened after that. Might have been knocked out or something, I don’t know.’
‘Looking at my children the same age, I can’t imagine a big strong bloke …’
Fulton is still unable to discuss his worst experiences in the home. ‘I do recall being preyed on by the older boys in the toilets, asking me to … I don’t talk about this, I find it very hard to get the words out.
‘Just helpless, at that age. A 16-year-old boy’s quite big when you’re only seven. I lived that all through my school life and high school life. Fear.’
With their constant supervision of the boys, Fulton said he’d be very surprised if the staff didn’t know that he was being sexually abused.
He couldn’t report it to a welfare agency because they never did an inspection, and he also wasn’t able to tell his father. ‘It just goes back to the days where children didn’t speak up. Doesn’t matter where – even in the family home – children didn’t speak up. And rarely would you be believed.’
When his father remarried in the early 1970s, Fulton was reunited with his family. He said he never spoke about the abuse to anyone. ‘How did I cope? I don’t think I coped very well at all.
‘Once I became a teenager … up until only recently, there’s probably not a day goes by where I haven’t wanted to take my own life.’
He spoke of feelings of ‘worthlessness’, of not being worthy of love. ‘I have absolutely no self-esteem’, he said.
In his early 30s, Fulton joined the armed forces. A few years later he got married and had children. ‘I found it hard to be a parent, a good parent. I did the best I could but I didn’t connect with my children, still haven’t.
‘You need role models, you need to learn to be a good parent by looking at your parents. And those years are quite defining years at that early age … so I haven’t got over the fact that I didn’t have that, I didn’t have that early love and nurturing.’
After many years of trying to deal with the memories and impact of the sexual abuse, Fulton realised he could no longer do it alone. ‘I actually identified that I wasn’t very well in the head in 2011, so once my marriage fell apart, I went to the doctor at work and I said, “That’s it, I need to go on medication”. Best thing I ever did.
‘I’m getting the help I need.’
And although he finds it too painful to talk about in detail, Fulton wanted his story to be included in the work of the Royal Commission. He recommended that children in care should be separated by age group, so the youngest and most vulnerable can be better protected.
He’s never reported the abuse to police nor sought compensation. When asked if he’d be interested Fulton said he wanted ‘an apology, first and foremost. If there’s financial compensation … I suppose it’d give closure. An apology and compensation would close the chapter’.
When he spoke to the Commissioner, Fulton was starting a new chapter. ‘I’m at the age of 52 and I’ve found love. It’s wonderful.’