Garfield's story

‘I am using the Royal Commission as a tool where I can have my concerns heard and hopefully addressed. Being able to legally speak on Phillip Watson’s behalf too … is something I feel I have to do.’

Garfield told the Commissioner, ‘Although I suffered … I can forgive. I can’t forgive on Phillip Watson’s behalf, and I can’t forgive on the other children … who have been denied a voice … Phillip Watson may be dead. He could be long gone, and no parents and no siblings to speak up for him … Who can speak up for him? I can’.

Garfield was awarded a small amount of compensation through Queensland’s Forde Inquiry, for the physical abuse he experienced at a government-run juvenile detention centre when he was 15. Children who were abused at non-government homes, such as those run by Legacy, were ineligible.

Phillip Watson was a boy who lived at a Legacy home in the late 1950s. Garfield was sent to this home after his father died, and his mother was unable to care for her children due to severe physical and mental health issues.

The children at the Legacy home were provided with good food and clean clothing. ‘The only flaw was their need to bring in some sort of deviant who was there to discipline us boys … He had the persona to me now of a Dickens character … I recall none of the boys wanted to be anywhere near him.’ Girls at the home were not subjected to physical abuse by this man, or other ‘disciplinarians’ who punished the boys.

‘Phillip Watson was the king of … the little kids when I first met him. That role became my joy and burden after his childhood exile, a role that engulfs me, even unto this day. I believe I carry a duty of care for Phillip Watson and the [Legacy home] kids.’

Phillip had ‘many disciplining beatings before and whilst I was a resident’, Garfield said. He recalled that one day Phillip was, without warning, sent to ‘one of the cruellest boys’ homes in Australia … with no knowledge on why’.

Garfield later saw Phillip at a sports match, and Phillip told him ‘what was going on at [the] boys’ home, and it took me a good 12 months to understand what he said to me. The events he and others had actually described to me were of rape and unimaginable things. I have hated the Salvation Army ever since … I question why Legacy was sending the supposedly naughty boys to [the boys’ home]’.

Garfield told the Commissioner that he was physically and sexually abused by ‘the disciplinarian’. ‘He beat me and sexually assaulted me in his office behind closed doors. I remember I blacked out and there was a period of time I could not account for.’

No staff member attended to Garfield’s wounds. ‘The only ones that assisted me at all were the young girls from the home. They treated me in the common room as best they could. Weeks after the beating the welts and marks were still all over my bum and on my back … This beating altered my outlook on life and its purpose. Beatings as severe or worse, no doubt affected many … of the naughty … kids before and after my time.’

Garfield did not report the abuse because ‘there were no complaints pathways we could pursue and basically we accepted we had no rights. Children should have rights. Too many things can take away their voice, and a child can and does remain a victim all their life’.

When Garfield was released from the home, he ‘basically turned into a juvenile delinquent. Not a very successful one … I was in about Grade 6 or Grade 7 and I just went crazy basically. I tried to commit suicide … many times’. The first time Garfield tried to take his own life was when he was 13.

‘I used to go to … [the] cemetery at night time and fall asleep on my grandfather’s grave or my father’s grave … I remember, I just wanted to fall asleep with them and not wake up again.’

Garfield told the Commissioner, ‘Many of the people I see who were in these places have been terribly damaged and it saddens me to see them so broken … In my heart, I have forgiven this beast that harmed me, but it has taken a lifetime. You see, once upon a time I would have wished to eat his bones. I have no fear of him now. I am sad for him … My fear is for any other children who may have crossed his path’.

Garfield has tried for years to gain access to his old Legacy files, but was told that they had been destroyed. To his dismay, he has also been unable to find any trace of Phillip Watson.

‘While we were in [the Legacy home] … we received harsh punishments for just being kids … They failed in their duty of care for many of us children, including me … I was not able to tell my story before. I was completely muffled. If it was not for this Royal Commission, it would still be muffled. Where else would I have been able to tell and share my story?’

Garfield told the Commissioner, ‘I am an old man now. My days grow short. I must speak up for my fellow [Legacy home] kids, especially Phillip Watson, to this Royal Commission … I humbly seek your Royal help with my childhood duty of care’.

Content updating Updating complete