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Gareth Henry's story

Gareth’s parents were divorced and he was raised by his mother. Because his mother worked she wasn’t able to pay much attention to him, and when he began playing up, she sent him to live with his father. He continued to play up, so eventually he was placed into care. ‘It was an attention thing. I wanted my mum and I played up very bad and they didn’t really get the point that, yeah … They didn’t really care.’

In the late 1990s, when Gareth was eight or nine, he spent a week in a juvenile detention centre in New South Wales. He told the Commissioner that he wasn’t sent there by a judge, but he thinks it was a temporary measure until a bed was available at a residential care facility. ‘To my understanding, you’re supposed to be sent there by a judge. I shouldn’t have been there.’

At the juvenile detention centre, Gareth was sexually assaulted. He was doing chores while other boys from his dormitory were ‘either at the trampoline or doing activities’. There were two older boys ‘doing vacuuming. I was then grabbed by one of them and the other sexually assaulted me. They tried to sexually assault me with the vacuum. It went on for about an hour and, yeah, it’s pretty much … yeah’.

Gareth reported the assault to workers at the centre.

‘I told workers. I know that, because they were letting me out to … with the unit through the day and locking me back up. But I don’t think they took it serious.’

He also told an Anglicare worker who visited him. She believed him, but apart from the workers locking him up in solitary at night, nothing was done about it.

After the week at the centre, Gareth was moved to a residential care facility, where he stayed for nine months. Gareth told the Commissioner that this centre was very violent. ‘It was horrible. I used to run away … I was so scared when they used to drag me back with the police. It was horrible. I was using heroin by the age of 10.’

The only person he felt safe with at that time was a homeless woman he’d met, and when he ran away, he would often run to her.

At the residential care facility the workers physically abused Gareth. ‘They’d punch. They’d make us fight each other. Like, stuff like that.’ He told the Commissioner that on one occasion, a worker at the centre urinated on him.

After leaving care, Gareth returned to live with his mother, but by then he’d become ‘a bad drug addict’ and had developed severe mental health problems. He now takes prescribed medication for these issues. He suffers from paranoia, anxiety and panic attacks and the only place he really feels safe is jail.

During his teens Gareth was living with his mother, and he began getting into trouble with the police.

‘Breaking … and stealing. Mainly stealing … It’s gone, it’s escalated to armed robberies and … I take my pills. I’m starting to realise now. I think I’m better and I get embarrassed … I feel embarrassed that I’ve got this problem.’

After the armed robbery, Gareth realised ‘I coulda done worse than what happened. I really lost the plot. Look, I don’t like what I do’.

Gareth told the Commissioner that he has access to mental health services in jail, but they aren’t very helpful. ‘It takes me a while to actually trust someone and I only really like talking to women. I’m not very … men, I feel … I talked to a bloke once and he pretty much, like, very unprofessional. Pretty much laughed in my face. And after that I felt very uncomfortable like, and it’s very hard for me.’

Gareth takes drugs because ‘it stops the pain. I’ve constantly got tears in me … my best mate’s in the yard and he’s my support. He’s a good bloke. He cops it too, you know. Like my bad days … He’s always there … He looks after me’.

When he was 17, Gareth was assigned a male Anglicare worker and Gareth wouldn’t go near him. The worker then ‘started realising what happened … Like, I was scared … As I was growing up I started realising what’s happened to me. So I’m getting worse in me, like, ‘cause at first I didn’t know what, you know what I mean, like I knew what happened, but I didn’t … as I got older it affected me more and more and more and now it’s got to a point where it’s really affected me, and he’s the one that recognised it all’.

It was the Anglicare worker who initiated the process that led to Gareth receiving a compensation payment for victims of crime. ‘They give a drug addict 30,000, you know what I mean, like it was just … I blew it in a week … It didn’t help me one bit.’

‘It’s horrible … the effect it’s had on me. Horrible. It shouldn’t be like this. You know, like I’ve … don’t feel I like I’ve got a chance … I don’t just blame that but, yeah, it’s horrible.’ Gareth told the Commissioner, ‘I put on a brave face. It’s in my head constantly. Yeah, I don’t … I need a lot of help’.

Gareth believes that talking to the Royal Commission might ‘give me a bit of closure’, and ‘I hope it changes in the future … youse are doing a good job’.

‘I’m a happy person. I’m just very … I’m happy. I’m just a bit messed up’.

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