When Gavin was six, his mother became ill and he and his siblings were made wards of the state. They were sent to a government-run group home in Western Australia in the early 1980s.
Gavin told the Commissioner that he was sexually abused at the home, and also in foster care after he had left the home.
As a result of the abuse he experienced, Gavin developed anger issues. During his time in juvenile detention centres and adult jail, he has often had to be restrained.
‘Always been restrained because I was that angry … I was fighting men at the age of 14, 13 and I just kept wanting to fight people.’
Gavin believes that the sexual abuse he experienced, ‘led today to a person that’s went from breaking into cars, breaking into houses, then stepping up in my later years, to doing armed robberies … serious ones … I just went on a spree, you know … I take responsibility for that. That’s why I’m here now. I’m doing my sentence. I don’t ask for parole or nothing. I’ve accepted that I’ve done the wrong thing … but something moulded me and made me an angry person, you know … as a kid’.
‘As a juvenile, I never actually spoke about what happened to me as a kid to anyone. One day, I sat back … I was always blaming everyone you know, pointing the finger at other people for me doing the things I was doing … but one day, I got up and looked in the mirror and …’
Gavin only began talking about his abuse when he started getting longer sentences in jail. ‘At first I wasn’t comfortable talking to male …. I think I had three or four counsellors and some of the things they were telling me, I just wouldn’t listen. I thought I had control of it and you know, my son came along and I wouldn’t leave my son with anyone.’ Gavin is now very protective of all of his young male relatives.
While Gavin was serving his current sentence, his son was removed from his de facto wife’s custody and placed into care. He told the Commissioner that he would like to ask those who placed his son into care, ‘Are you going to take responsibility for how I react as an uneducated father, if anything was to happen to my son?’ He is determined to gain custody of his son once he is out of jail.
Gavin is still angry, but realises that he has to ‘change my ways, because this is my last chance … After this … I gotta spend the rest of my life in jail. It’s been laid out for me’.
Gavin suffers from low self-esteem and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He decided to contact counsellors from the Sexual Assault Resource Centre (SARC) because ‘I was actually fighting every day … Then I started thinking, what if I end up hitting someone, killing them, or they knock me down and kill me?’
Gavin told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve felt comfortable since I opened up to SARC and like … talking to them … I knew these people were trying to help me, you know … So, every time I walked in and talked to them, I was light, I felt on top of the world’. At his current prison, he has no access to the SARC counsellors.
Gavin received $13,000 through a redress scheme, but ‘soon as I had it, I just smashed it straight up my arms. I’ll be honest with you, I was a junkie. A full-on junkie. When I first come to jail I was … I didn’t think I was going to make it … I had all these suicidal thoughts in my head about self-harming and how am I going to get through this … getting way out of hand’.
As well as his compensation payment, Gavin received an apology from the government, but although he appreciated it when he got it, he feels that ‘you can’t apologise for what someone else done’.
‘Kids are kids, man. They’re innocent, you know. I was innocent. And that’s why I keep trying to convince myself that I’m a good person. I’m not one of those people that there’s no cure for, there’s no answer for. People keep telling me, “You’re no good. You’re a lost cause” and things like that. I’ve got to tell myself every day, that I’m somebody, you know.’