‘I lived with Mum and Dad [and my siblings]. My mother was very kind, looked after the kids with no problems, but I was the naughty one and my father would come home, slap me round the head, punch me in the head, pretty hard in the face.
'And days when he would be really pissed off, from the age of four to six, he would take me into the room and rape me.’
In the late 1970s, after his father came home drunk and attacked his mother and nearly killed him, Garth was placed in a children’s receiving centre in New South Wales. While he was in the centre, Garth was sexually abused by a staff member.
‘I believe it was the manager or the boss that ran my area … When he found out my father abused me, he thought, “Well, that’s been dealt with. I might have a chance with him” … So he started to abuse me.’
The abuse in the centre included masturbation and oral sex, and the staff member threatened that if Garth told anyone he would lose all privileges and wouldn’t get anything to eat. There were also two teenage girls at the centre who regularly played with Garth’s genitals. ‘I think that was just to make me feel happy – or to make them feel happy.’
School was difficult for Garth and he was bullied because of his learning difficulties. ‘Because of all the abuse off me father, I suffered from short-term memory loss. It takes me ages to memorise stuff … I was always second last, last, in me class. When it comes to something mechanical, I’m very quick learning. If it’s to do with a book …’
Garth was eventually adopted, but was removed from that home after a sexual offence against a young female relative of his adoptive parents. He spent time in several refuges before being charged and jailed at 18 for a sexual offence against a teenage boy.
Garth told the Commissioner that he had been in and out of jail his whole adult life for sexual offences against children, and other serious crimes. With his history of abuse during his childhood, ‘to me, I just thought it was something normal. Just a normal thing to do’.
When he was in his early 30s, Garth saw a psychiatrist, who prescribed an antidepressant. ‘It made me re-offend badly this time.’ Garth believes it contributed to him committing the offence for which he is currently serving a very long prison term. He is now on a new medication, which is making him feel better.
Garth suggested that ‘If a child’s been abused in an institution, at home, they should get help straight away … I reckon if I had’ve had help at that time, I wouldn’t be in jail for what I’m in for now.
‘All I know now is that I don’t want to re-offend, ever.’