Gareth was six years old when he and his sister were placed into care at a Protestant children’s home in a small town near Sydney. It was the late 1960s, and he doesn’t remember much before the home, ‘just snippets’ of time with his mum and uncle.
A volunteer worker called David, who was in his 20s, would take Gareth and some of the other boys out on motorbikes and shooting excursions to his nearby property. ‘He had something to do with the church ... He had access to us anytime he liked.’
David sexually abused all of the boys during these outings – including making Gareth ‘play with him – he’d do the same’, and forcing some of the others to perform oral sex. Gareth thought of David as a ‘big brother’, but he ran away when David attempted to rape him.
If the boys told staff at the home that they did not want to go with David, or if they criticised the way he behaved with them, they were accused of lying. Gareth was told he should be grateful as he was only at the home ‘on charity’, and he was reminded of the disadvantaged background that caused him to be there.
His sister was also ‘touched up a bit’ in the home by a different worker. After leaving this home Gareth went back to his mum and became a little ‘wayward’, then spent a short while in a boys’ home. He changed his path for the better, when ‘I got into books and educated myself’.
Gareth reported having low self-esteem, difficulties with authority and trusting others, issues with anger, and being a ‘functioning alcoholic’. He has limited contact with his ex-partner and children, although he is currently establishing a closer bond with his son.
At the moment Gareth is not interested in seeking compensation or exploring other legal options. The support and friendship of a close workmate helps him cope with his childhood experiences, and his sister knows something about what happened to him.
A psychologist Gareth saw for a few sessions through work diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. At that stage he didn’t want to tell her about the sexual abuse, just that ‘I had a very brutal upbringing. I didn’t go into details’.
Accessing further counselling appeals to Gareth now, particularly after speaking to a phone crisis support line. ‘Absolutely. Lifeline has pointed out it’s probably best you go and talk to someone, or take something for depression, which I don’t like taking ‘cause I feel vulnerable when I’m too passive. I don’t like being passive, I like to have my guard up.'
Gareth told the Commissioner that he has tried medication in the past, ‘but I felt that I was just slowed down, and so I felt vulnerable ... That’s something I want to tackle now, ‘cause I just don’t like being vulnerable, or feeling like I’m weak’.