‘I can still hear the screams at 6 am of ice cold showers and beltings, me and others.’
Hewy’s early years were spent with his parents, younger brother, older sister and extended Aboriginal family. His father was in the navy and after his mother became sick, Hewy and his siblings were removed from their aunt and uncle’s care, made wards of the state and sent to a Church of England children’s home in Sydney.
‘It’s just really sad how history repeats itself’, Hewy said. ‘My father, the same thing happened to him and his brothers, put into a home. I don’t know what the reason was and then he was drafted off into the navy. That’s the same thing they tried to do to us too, you know. They wanted us to join the navy or the army or the air force or something. I got out before it was my turn.’
Arriving in the home at the age of nine in the early 70s, Hewy was asked whether his younger brother wet the bed. ‘I said, “No he doesn’t wet the bed”. But he soon did.’ As regular punishment, children were beaten with straps, sticks and open hands and for wetting the bed they were put into cold showers.
Hewy and his siblings were forbidden to speak to one another and on weekends and during holidays they were sent to different homes in the local area. During one of these weekends Hewy was asked by the father of the house to go with him to the shops. Once in the car, the father pulled over to the side of the road and began to fondle Hewy’s penis. He then grabbed Hewy’s hand and put it on his own penis, saying, ‘This is how you do it’. The man then took Hewy’s pants off and tried to rape him.
Back at the house, Hewy ‘put on a show’ and yelled and screamed so much that he was taken back to the children’s home the next day. He didn’t tell anyone about the assault because the woman in charge of the home ‘was terrible’ and ‘would have whacked’ him. However, he refused to go back to the couple’s house again.
After leaving the home in the late 70s, Hewy and his siblings went back to live with their mother. He started an apprenticeship but had trouble with anyone in authority. The sexual abuse ‘ruined’ him, he said.
‘Made me what I am, there’s no doubt about it and I’ve often tried to think, why am I like this? And I just keep on coming up with the same answer. It’s like when you’ve got a plant in the ground and you let it grow and if it grows that way you can’t bring it back, you know. It’s a bit hard to explain but I’m trying – often I’ve tried to change it and I can’t. That’s why I just like my own space and to stay away from people.’
He said he found it almost impossible to be told what to do by anybody but a job on the railways had worked out well. ‘I found that easy because you were directed what to do and everyone was on the same playing field and it was quite a good place to be. I moved on from there and as life went on for me I found that I wanted to do my own thing.’
Hewy told the Commissioner that he’d been married for 30 years. His wife Alisa, with whom he’d had three children, came with him to his private session. She’d not known until a few months ago that Hewy had been sexually abused as a child.
‘It’s been good actually that we’ve come to this stage’, she said, ‘because he blocked so much of it out for so long and bringing it to the surface has been good for him.’
Hewy lamented the effect the abuse had had on him and his family. He’d been made ‘very hard’, still suffered nightmares and thought he ‘may never get my head around all this’. He’d thought only recently about having counselling and was currently considering it. Going to New South Wales Police wasn’t something he thought he could ever do.
‘As much as I’d like to, I find it hard to do that sort of thing and everything to do with the police really because they were there in the beginning and they took us to the home, they were in the court and you know, I respect the police, don’t get me wrong. I won’t do anything that’s outside the law but I don’t want nothing to do with them either, and then to go there and then make a statement and do all that sort of thing, I find it hard to trust. And at the end of the day I think it’s such a long time ago the guy’s probably dead. And if he’s not well then karma’s sorting him out anyway. If I find out who he is then I probably will do something I know I will regret.’
Hewy still doesn’t understand why he and his siblings were taken from their family and put in the home. ‘That day I went to the court I cried and said I wanted to stay with me uncle because we were living with me uncle and aunty and it was good, we were happy there and they stepped in and just took us away. I don’t know, they said it was like the sleeping arrangements or something but all the kids slept in one room. We were all happy kids you know …
‘If we would have stayed with me uncle, you know we had friends, kids living next door, we all played together, everything was happy, we went to school. Everything was good you know, I never would have had to go through what I went through if you know, and it just changed everything. It just tore the family apart.’