Hubert's story

‘Show them love. If someone’s there to help you, just make sure those people are genuine. It’s pretty hard to come across someone sitting there saying they’re trying to help you, then they turn around and try and sexually abuse you.’

That’s Hubert’s advice for anyone trying to keep children in care safe. It was something that was very much missing in his own childhood.

‘My father was an alcoholic. He used to bash us every single night for no reason … He used to bash my mum every night. In those days if the police were called they didn’t do nothing about it.

'Many times me and my brother used to plan to kill him … But the institutions we were placed in, some of them were run by the Church, they were just as bad.’

In the mid 1960s, when Hubert was about nine, he and his brother were placed in a training school for boys. ‘They said it was to make us better, to grow up in a community – and that’s when it all started.’

He went to several different homes in New South Wales over the years, and from the age of about 11, he was sexually abused by male staff or other boys.

In a government-run institution, his house father would watch all the boys in the shower or going to the toilet, and make them show him their genitals. He fondled Hubert and made him perform oral sex.

‘He’d take maybe six boys on a Saturday night to watch TV, ‘cause we weren’t allowed to watch TV and it was a big thing for the boys. So he used to use it to get those boys away from everyone and that’s when it would happen. He’d never do it in front of everyone.’

At a boys’ home run by the Anglican Church, Hubert was regularly sexually abused by older boys. He was also physically abused by the man in charge, who would make him stand in front of the other boys and take off his pants; then the man would flog him with a sand shoe. Hubert said he was targeted because he had already been in boys’ homes and was seen as different to the others.

He ran away and the police took him to a different, government-run home. There Hubert suffered extreme physical abuse, including being stripped naked and locked in isolation cells for days at a time, with the lights flicked on and off, and water thrown over him. He was also sexually abused by older boys, and one of the staff who would touch up the boys when he was cleaning the dormitories.

Hubert said that over the years he got angrier and angrier. On one occasion when he was in his teens, a welfare officer had tried to talk to him about his experiences, saying he understood bad things had happened in his life. But Hubert just wasn’t able to open up about it.

He came out of the final home at the age of 15 and his mother sent him to live in Perth with a man who, he believes, she knew was a paedophile. Hubert lived with him for a year and was abused by him during that time. The man was charged with sex offences and Hubert was interviewed by police, but it was all too much and he ran away to start out on his own.

After that, he said, ‘my life was a mess’.

Hubert got into drugs as a way of blocking everything out, became involved in criminal activity, mainly to support his drug habit, and ended up spending about 10 years in jail.

In between, Hubert was married for 16 years, had two children and ran his own business. However, he said he had difficulty trusting others and difficulty with relationships, and his marriage broke up. He described himself as a loner and, while he is in a relationship now, he doesn’t think it will last. ‘It’s me, it’s not her. I just can’t trust people.’

He has been out of jail for eight years but still struggles with drugs, and now has physical health problems, along with mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. He has nightmares ‘all the time’ and often feels suicidal.

What has kept Hubert going is his relationship with his children and grandchildren. He also fulfilled a promise to his brother, who died two years ago, to look after his grandchildren. He says they're turning out well.

He said he wishes he could live in the bush and just disappear, but he knows there are others depending on him, including the dog he rescued from the pound.

‘When I go walking or go to the beach with the dogs, when I’m alone with my dog, I’m at peace … She just looks at me all the time. We’re best friends.’

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