‘The main thing that I recommend is trying to keep the family together ‘cause that first visit to a boys’ home, you’re gone. You might as well commit yourself to 20 years of jail, because you learn everything that you need to know about jail. It’s just a young person’s jail, that’s all it is.’
Geoff spent 24 years of his adult life incarcerated – a fact he attributes to his early introduction to the criminal justice system and the abuse he suffered within it – and now he’s sick of it.
He was born into a large family in the late 1960s in Queensland and was only two when his father died. His widowed mother struggled to bring up lots of kids on a pension, and while Geoff was good at school and a keen sportsman, he fell in with the wrong crowd.
‘I started smoking pot, carrying on like a dick. It wasn’t unusual for the neighbourhood. We were all the same,’ he said.
When he was 15, Geoff, his younger brother and another boy ‘took a motorbike for a joyride’. They were caught and. While the other boy got off, Geoff and his younger brother were made wards of the state, and Geoff was sent to a farm home for boys.
Geoff said the home was run like a military camp and physical abuse was common. While he was there he was sexually abused on multiple occasions by one of the officers, Haydon.
‘He lived on the reserve with his family and he used to come and take me for work on the farm. He used to take me back to his house for smokos and it started then. He’d perform oral sex on me. He tried to make me do it to him.’
After Haydon tried to make Geoff do that, Geoff reported the abuse to a senior officer. The senior officer told him to ‘piss off’ and threatened Geoff with a ritual where the younger boys would be made to fight the older boys under the watch of an officer. He was forced to return to working with Haydon, and the abuse continued.
Eventually Geoff refused to go to work. He was on a five-month sentence but the officers threatened to keep him in the centre until he was 18. He found the courage to report the abuse to another officer, Jacobs, who he thought was ‘half-decent’ and could be trusted.
‘A couple of nights later Jacobs come around and said he’d sort out what was going on. They took me down to the gym and did what they did.’
Jacobs and Haydon raped Geoff a number of times.
Geoff said Jacobs didn’t abuse him again, but he continued to threaten him with subtle hints if he stepped out of line.
He made no further attempts to report the abuse to officers, and didn’t talk about it with the other boys because ‘I didn’t want anyone to know … It was a shame thing’.
A short time later – about a week before his 16th birthday – Geoff was released from the centre. He returned to live with his mother, but was in jail by the time he was 17.
Geoff became angry at the world, with a deep hatred for anyone in authority, and developed a heavy drug and alcohol addiction. He was jailed for breaking and entering, which he did to support his habit. This pattern continued, and Geoff now has a very long criminal record.
For many years he did not disclose his abuse to anybody, not even to his brother who he is ‘100 per cent’ sure was also abused while he was in care.
‘I went to the Forde Inquiry and I didn’t mention anything. I just said I got slapped around. I didn’t mention anything, I didn’t mention any of the abuse … I was a drug addict and I wanted the seven grand. It didn’t last very long.’
Although Geoff had the courage to report his abusers while he was in the youth centre, he has no interest in reporting them to police now. He doesn’t care for the welfare of his abusers, but is concerned about turning their families into secondary and tertiary victims.
‘They’ve got to go to school still … They didn’t do nothing to me. It was him. It wasn’t his wife, it wasn’t his kids, it wasn’t his grandkids. What result am I going to get out of hurting them?’
Two years ago, and locked up again, Geoff finally decided to seek help.
‘I went to see the psych. I thought “bugger this, I’ve got to find a reason behind all this”.’
He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and put in touch with counsellors and a community organisation that helps people facing mental health challenges. Because of the support he has received, Geoff has managed to stay off hard drugs and alcohol for the duration of his last two sentences.
Since he started dealing with his past, Geoff said ‘things have been pretty good’. He has a daughter on the outside who he is keen to reconnect with, having missed most of her life. He also feels that, this time, he’ll have support systems in place to make a difference when he comes out, and he is optimistic things will go better for him.
‘I’d like to think I’ve still got a bit of potential.’