One morning in the mid-1950s, Giles and his siblings were told to stay at home. ‘The next thing you know, we’re in a car and it took us down to the police station … Later that afternoon … we were put on [a boat].’
When they were taken off the boat, the boys were put in one car and the girls in another, and they were all taken to children’s homes. Giles was seven, and he was placed in a section with older boys.
While he was in the home, Giles was sexually abused on two occasions by older boys. The second time it happened, ‘a group of boys caught me … and held me down and they had their way. One of the officers seen it.’ Instead of taking any action, the officer just told the boys to ‘stop mucking around’.
Giles didn’t report the abuse. ‘I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what was going on. These guys were doing these things. “What the hell’s going on?” There was nowhere to hide.’
He told the Commissioner, ‘I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was angry and the trust situation … Even today, I’m still always in a situation where I reckon I third degree, fourth degree everybody ... also, I can be sitting in a room full of people and I’m absolutely alone. No connection with people’.
Giles ran away from the boys’ home a few times. He often hid in a water drain, but was always found and taken back. Then, when he was 12, he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle.
‘They used to fight like hell. A lot of it was about marital things. A lot of things [to do with] animosity with Aboriginal families … [And] they’d have their parties … and then other people that were in there’d kick us out of bed and use our bed and all that bloody thing.’
Often, when his aunt and uncle were fighting, his aunt screamed for Giles to go and get the police. ‘It didn’t matter if it was four o’clock in the morning or bloody four o’clock in the afternoon, you know. Here was a kid being made to run two kilometres to a phone box … I was terrified.’
When his uncle returned home each time after being taken away by the police, he thrashed Giles for reporting him.
Eventually, Giles was sent back to the boys’ home. ‘The second time, I was a different kid … I had a few fights pretty well straight up when I got back there, with some of the guys that were still there, and they kept away from me. When I come back, I was a different kid.’
In his mid-teens, Giles lived on the streets for a while. He travelled around a bit, and was able to secure work on the docks until he was about 16 or 17. He then found one of his sisters, and lived with her for a few years.
His sister lived in the region his family came from. Giles didn’t know any of his relatives, so he wouldn’t talk to them. This caused problems for him, but he was angry because he didn’t understand why none of his relatives had rescued him from his childhood of abuse.
Giles eventually managed to create a successful life for him and his family by always working. ‘When I had to fend for myself, I had to survive and the easiest way I found was that I could find work, and so I took that road.’
When Giles found himself working with Aboriginal families, this brought back memories of his own childhood abuse, both in the boys’ home and living with his aunt and uncle. For a while, Giles drank, just like his father. These days, he only drinks moderately.
Coming to the Royal Commission was difficult for him, but ‘I guess, once I started talking, there was a pressure build-up talking about it because I’ve never talked to anybody about what happened to me at the home and things like that … I’m going to have to start talking to a psychiatrist or a psychologist … things that keep coming back, because it keeps happening in the community’.
It concerns Giles that children in his community are still at risk of abuse. ‘Today … I get myself in crap all the time. A lot of us people are screaming … talking about a second Stolen Generation, but I have no sympathy for these young parents who drug up and drink and don’t look after their kids. No sympathy for ‘em.’
Giles believes that he should never have been taken away from his family. ‘I didn’t see nothing from the little bit of time that I had with my family. I had no problems, to what’s happening today, [which] is straight out abuse … young kids … at night, walking the streets, can’t go home, and these are five-year-old kids.’
Becoming a father was something that scared Giles. ‘I had no nurturing. I had none of that.’
However, he told the Commissioner that he is proud to have been with his wife for over 40 years, and to have raised children who have been successful in life.