Gordon was born in the 1950s in New South Wales. Just before he turned seven his parents split up. Gordon had many siblings and he and his two brothers were made wards of the state as it was considered their mother couldn’t afford to look after all her children. This led to a life of reduced opportunity for Gordon due to a lack of education. A boy with a high IQ, he taught himself to read and spell when he was in his 30s.
In written documentation Gordon presented to the Commissioner, he states that his mother unsuccessfully fought for years to get her sons back. His father also tried to become their carer but a single father was frowned upon in those days. After that, their father never visited them. ‘Perhaps it was too painful for him to see us in the institutions.’
Gordon, the eldest of the three boys, saw very little of his brothers as he was separated from them for most of the time. Gordon was sent to a welfare home in Sydney’s east, then, at age nine, he was sent to a state run children’s home in regional New South Wales, where he stayed for over a year. By then he was separated from his brothers.
At the children’s home the children lived in cottages supervised by a ‘housemaster’. Gordon’s housemaster was Mr Brian Fryer, a cruel and sadistic disciplinarian who referred to the boys as ‘scum of the earth’. Gordon often stood up for some of the other boys that he saw being treated particularly unfairly.
The boys were not educated and there was no sport or stimulating activities for them to do. Instead, they were put to work. ‘We worked all day, or I did … 24/7 and at night there was … no reading material. If any comics rolled up they were confiscated … you were prevented from talking … everybody would sit around, no one would talk. You’d fall asleep in the chair, he’d come around, wake you up and you’d all go to bed … a year can go by and only one thing you’d remember because that was the only thing that was different. Because you did exactly the same thing day by day.’
When Gordon was nine years old, Mr Fryer accused Gordon and another boy, of about the same age, of rubbing their penises together. He then made the two boys stand in a locker room and actually do this to each other. In written documentation presented to the Commissioner, Gordon says ‘Whilst he was making us rub our penises together, I kept crying and crying, and I kept saying, “No”, but he made us do it’.
Mr Fryer then took away the boys’ privileges for two weeks. He stood them in front of a large class of boys and told the whole class what they had done. Gordon wrote in his statement, ‘He publicly and privately humiliated us’.
Gordon did not report the abuse at the time that it occurred as he did not have anyone to report it to.
Before going to the home, Gordon had excelled at school and had progressed to higher classes. He was advanced for his age. At the home it was a different story. One day his teacher discovered Gordon trying to do an elder boy’s maths. From then on Gordon was forced to do kindergarten-level schoolwork. By the time he left Mittagong he had regressed and was unable to read or spell.
When Gordon was 11 he returned to his mother but described her as not a good carer. Although he did attend school again, he was so far behind he didn’t benefit from it. He left school when he was 16. Soon after he started in the workforce. He never gained a qualification and has consequently always worked on low wages even though he has always excelled at his jobs, sometimes performing supervisory roles but for no extra pay.
At the age of 31 Gordon taught himself to read and spell.
Gordon feels the lack of education was the thing that has had the greatest impact on his life, rather than the sexual assault itself. He is not seeking any redress because Mr Fryer would be in his 90s if he were even alive.
Despite his set-backs, Gordon has gained many skills in his life, largely self-taught. For example, he built his own home. He has good relationships with his siblings and has re-connected with his father.