‘I’m really here to tell my son’s story’, Guy told the Commissioner. His son, Alan, died of cancer several years ago. Shortly before he died he visited his father to tell him about an experience he’d had many years before. Alan had been sexually abused by a gardener while living in residential care in Western Australia.
Alan was the third of Guy’s four children. In the late 1960s, when Alan was four, his mother left the family. ‘My wife dumped [the kids] with my mother, and took off and never came back’, Guy said. At the time he had a job in a remote area of the state. His mother was unable to care for the children, however. Guy’s application for a state house where they could all live was unsuccessful so he couldn’t look after them either. Instead, he paid for them to be cared for in an Anglican-run residential home in Perth.
At first, Guy carried on with his job, a long way from Perth. When he could manage it he’d come back for school holidays and take the children away. His mother saw them at the weekends. Eventually Guy moved back to Perth, but he still wasn’t able to arrange to care for the kids at home. This didn’t happen until he remarried, in the early 1970s.
It was obvious Alan was unhappy at the home, Guy recalled.
‘When I took Alan back, he would cry, “Please Daddy, please don’t leave me”. The others would race off and do their thing, but Alan would just hang on to me, and I’d have to sort of push him away to walk away, and he’d be screaming.’
At the time, Alan didn’t tell his father he was being sexually abused. But he and the other children did share stories about the physical and emotional abuse they were experiencing. They were made to do physical work – ‘slave labour’, Guy said – and severely punished for minor infringements of the rules.
‘When the kids would come to be with us, they would tell us the things that were going on. I never knew about Alan’s sexual abuse – but I knew about his physical abuse and sadness. And he hated going back.’
Guy tried many times to speak to the superintendent at the home. He was concerned about Alan, and he also wanted to organise events and outings for the other kids at the home. ‘Many a time the kids that didn’t have family come and get them, they would come up to me and say, “Can I come with you?” Time and time again’, he told the Commissioner.
But he got nowhere.
‘[The superintendent] was ex-military. English military. Snap to attention type military. Don’t speak until you’re spoken to and all that’, Guy said. ‘I had at least 10 attempts that I can remember of trying to have a conversation with him … In the end I just gave up.’
The four children lived at the home for three years. The older two, Guy said, ‘managed as well as it could be managed’. His youngest child, a daughter, suffered the most, he believes. ‘Sadly, at the moment she’s kicked me out of her life, because of what happened. I can’t even talk to her husband; she won’t let me be involved with her children, even though some of them are adults now.’
Guy suffered too, and attempted suicide in the 1980s – a direct consequence of the toll that the abuse of his children took on him.
As adults, two of Guy’s children received modest payments from a Western Australian redress scheme – enough to pay a few psychiatrist’s bills, Guy said. Alan wanted an apology from the Anglican Archbishop in Perth, accepting responsibility for the home’s failure of care. He was ill at the time, and didn’t have long to live. The Archbishop agreed to visit him at home.
The day came, but the Archbishop didn’t. Alan never received any apology or explanation for the no-show. But after Guy contacted the Church again, a representative attended Alan’s funeral, which took place not long afterwards.
The message Guy brought to the Royal Commission was that it should be examining emotional and physical abuse with the same attention it’s giving sexual abuse. ‘My main complaint is that the Commission is saying to anybody who was anything other than sexually abused “Sorry, bad luck, we don’t want to know”’, he said.
For most people, he said, sexual abuse is not the biggest problem. ‘That’s serious but it’s nowhere near as serious as the abuse that my kids suffered at [the home].’