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Gene Luke's story

Gene ran away from his home in Queensland in the late 1980s, when he was nine years old, because his father was violent and cruel. After spending months living on the streets, Gene was taken in by a couple who used him as a slave and beat him.

When Gene was 11 or 12 he was taken into care and stayed in a series of foster and group homes. He recalled being treated well in one placement, but in others he was physically and mentally abused. He ran away many times.

When Gene was 13 he was made a ward of the state. He was fostered by an elderly couple who forced him to masturbate their dog. Gene told them he would report it. He ran away from this placement as well. He was then sent to a boys’ home and has since received compensation in relation to his time there.

Gene got into crime and was sent to a string of government-run juvenile detention centres. He was sexually abused in every one of them – by male officers, inmates or both. As a boy, Gene tried to take his own life a number of times. ‘I don’t believe I should still be here, you know.’

After his release, at 15 or 16, Gene got his welfare file. ‘In that report … one of my foster parents, whom I ran away from, said that they caught me masturbating the dog. They forced me to masturbate the dog. They tried to make that dog have sex with me … That was the last straw with [welfare] … and I ran away from Queensland to New South Wales. And they discharged me. They didn’t want nothing to do with me. They just said, “We don’t want him back. You’re no more a ward of the state”.’

In Sydney, Gene was again incarcerated in a juvenile detention centre. A male guard sexually abused him while Gene was in the ‘privileged’ section, where inmates had their own cells.

‘Same shit. I mean, everywhere you go, it’s like … if you’re a scarred kid, or something happened to you, people think that it gives them an open ticket to do what they want to do as well, you know what I mean?’

Gene has an extensive drug and criminal history and is currently in prison, where he has spent much of his adult life. ‘I’ve blocked [the abuse] out for 15 years by using heroin ...

‘Usually I’d get out of jail and I’d work for a bit. Then things start going pear-shaped. I’m starting using drugs ... I’ve got a nice car out there. I’ve got clothes … I’ve got this. I’ve got that. But at the end of it, that doesn’t really mean anything …’ Gene has been drug-free for several years, but admits the only reason for this was because his girlfriend gave him an ultimatum.

Gene is critical of the criminal justice system. ‘Someone like me, I got … 20 grams of meth. I’ll get two or three years or something for it … If someone touches kids … they get off on suspended sentences. It’s bullshit.’

Gene has only two people on the outside he talks to. ‘I’ve got no one … I’ve got no family at all … I’ve got a relationship … but she’s locked up as well.’

Gene is critical of the counselling he’s received in prison. ‘Counselling is … they try and bring the worst out of you and make you talk about it and they push you and they try and make you … I’ve had counselling before and … it’s not counselling … They try and bring the anger out of you and stuff like that … You don’t want … you don’t want this … I don’t want the anger to come out of me, you know what I mean?’

When Gene was a child in a group home, ‘part of their therapy was, if you got angry, they’d make you more angrier and hold you down, and hold you down and hold ya, and hold ya, and hold ya, and hold ya. Until finally you weren’t angry any more … No fucking … Don’t hold me mate. It makes me angry … You keep holding me … People have got no idea’.

The Royal Commission is Gene’s first disclosure of his sexual abuse. He was ashamed and scared to disclose previously. He has spoken to a legal aid service about seeking compensation but hasn’t made a report to police.

‘Just myself, and the way that I actually live, and I’m around people … I think I’ve come a long way …’

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