‘You learn to survive. After being through what I’ve been through in the past and everything else you just learn to zip up, say nothing. Otherwise you’re in fights, you’re bashed.’
Hardy was sexually abused in residential care facilities in New South Wales during the 1960s. And he found time and again that either he wasn’t believed when he complained of adults committing crimes against him, or worse, he was punished for speaking out. So he stopped speaking out.
Hardy’s father was an alcoholic. His parents split up when he was a toddler and he and his sisters were mostly brought up by their grandmother. When Hardy was four and a half, he had his first stay in a home, one run by the Presbyterian Church.
While at the home, he was sexually abused a number of times by a relief house parent who worked there. He trusted the man because he trusted everyone back then, but he didn’t like the abuse and when he was seven he ran away back to his grandmother’s house.
Hardy didn’t tell his grandmother about the abuse, although she had an idea that something had happened. He was ‘highly emotional’ at that time, and used to go on long walks alone. Because of this, he was removed from his grandmother’s care and sent to another institution, a government-run boys’ home in Sydney.
At that place, a male carer who worked the night shift would take Hardy to the showers and sexually abuse him. He told nobody and after about eight months, he was moved to another government home.
At the new place, a male relief house parent twice took Hardy to the showers and raped him. When Hardy threatened to tell, the man punched him and gave him a black eye. That weekend, Hardy’s aunt came to visit him and he told her how he got the injury.
‘My aunty went to the office … She complained about the black eye and I remember the thing: “You’re a liar. It never happened. One of the boys done that” … She said that relief house parent touched me and punched me in the face ‘cause I was gonna tell.’
Following the complaint, Hardy was punished with harsh treatment and extra chores, so ‘after that I learnt to just shut it out and not say nothing’.
His aunt told his grandmother what had happened and she got him out of the home and back into her care. But when he was about 11, he broke his arm and very soon after, his grandmother broke her hip. A neighbour called child welfare and he was sent back to one of the previous homes.
A different man approached him this time, offering to show him some cows.
‘Being naive and not knowing much, he took me into the shed and there was a hammer on the floor and he started doing things to me and I knocked him on the kneecap and ran off.
‘I ran away from the place. I went to our mother’s and she rang the police … they took me back to the home and then the home said, “No”. I told the police what happened then and they didn’t believe me.’
He was sent on to a different home where he was abused by older boys, and then a farm home where he was abused again by a teacher and by a Brother from the local Catholic church who took the boys out on trips.
Hardy left the homes when he was nearly 15 and his cousin organised a manual job for him. But life did not turn out well. In one of the homes he had been forced to carry around 30-kilo sacks of horse manure, which left him with back injuries and significantly affected his ability to work. He has been on the disability pension for 30 years.
He also had difficulties with relationships and his marriage didn’t last. And there were very serious mental impacts that are ongoing.
‘I tried to commit suicide at 21. I tried to overdose but it didn’t work … I ended up in a psychiatric hospital twice. I tried to hang myself, not once. But I’ve learned to cope with it. I was going through hard times and things weren’t working out, life weren’t working out.’
Hardy told the Commissioner about some friends he’d had from the homes, who he knew had been abused, and who later took their lives. These friends were the first people he had really talked to about the abuse.
‘We talked amongst each other. “That happened to me too. That’s happened to me too.” And it’s not only one that happened there. I’d say it would have been about 20 …
‘I thought we’ll go to this sergeant I know … we’ll go and talk to him. And he said, “Look, I can’t believe this”. And that’s the truth. “I can’t believe this. Because you’ve been in an institution, we can’t believe people that’s been in an institution” …
‘We gave up altogether. I think that’s why the other guys just said, “Well, there’s nothing going to happen”.
Hardy is still trying to find the right psychological help. He recently went to see a new GP, who has referred him to a counsellor, but he is apprehensive.
‘I said I’ve got problems from when I was younger. That’s all I said. Otherwise she’d probably send me to the psychiatric home. I don’t want to go to the psychiatric home. I know what they’re like, I’ve been there.
‘I’m going to just say this, unless they know what we’ve been through, they wouldn’t know what to talk about. That’s true. Unless someone has been in that situation, they’ve got no idea.’