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Ivan's story

Throughout his childhood, Ivan was keen to pursue a career as a jockey. ‘Unwanted’ by his mother, the young teen spent his spare time at the racetrack learning all the trainer would teach him about the racing world.

‘He’d introduce me as his next apprentice, and that’s all I wanted. My mother was always drunk and the bloke that lived with her was a dog, he used to kick the shit out of us kids. The trainer and his wife just loved me, and when I think about how my life could have turned out, I feel very bitter.’

Ivan spent part of his early childhood in New South Wales in different boys’ homes, and in the late 1950s, when he was in his mid-teens, he found himself in a Sydney remand facility for boys. He recalled that the reason for his incarceration was parental neglect.

He told the Commissioner, ‘This bloke Pfitzner ran the place. He’d pull me into this room and say, “You’ve been talking about it”. I said, “Talking about what?” He said, “Talking about escaping”. I said, “Escape?” I was three foot nothing and the walls were 20 foot high, I wasn’t going to escape!’

Despite his denials, Ivan said, the questioning became routine, and always ended with an act of sexual abuse.

‘He’d come to the dorm and call you by surname, and you’d be crying your eyes out all the way to his office. He straddled me across the table, took my pants down. He had a couple of fingers missing, and he’d give me what the boys called “hand-slaps”. While he was doing it, he’d ejaculate on your back, it would go on for minutes. It was pretty bad. He never entered me, but he may as well have.’

Afterwards, Ivan said, Pfitzner’s hand mark remained clearly visible on his bottom for some time. He told the matron at the shelter, as well as a nurse, and recalled both telling him to shut up.

‘They must have told Pfitzner because I got 72 hours locked in what they called “dark Jimmy”, it was a cell, and Pfitzner was the only one allowed in. You’d get a crust of bread and milk three times a day, and he’d say, “Time for a shower”, and hose me. All I had was my pyjamas which I ripped the buttons off to click against each other on the floor, to see how far I could make them go.’

If the boys faced court, Ivan said, the outcome often depended on a report from the facility, written by Pfitzner.

‘Nobody took any notice of you – in them days he was God. He does the reporting, it goes to the judge, you’re in his hands. He used to remind you and say, “Don’t forget, I write the reports. There’s no one else”. You’d be terrified.’

As the abuse went on, Ivan lost his confidence and any interest he may have had in school.

‘It was just so degrading, all that stuff. I’ve suffered depression, slashed me wrists and got 26 stitches inside and out. I can’t have relationships, I don’t trust anyone and that’s not the way it should be. I’ve been dead for years and it all stems from that crap.’

In his mid-50s, Ivan had a breakdown, and said he often thinks about how his life might have turned out if he hadn’t been abused.

‘I live in a one bedroom flat, I drink a lot, I’ve got nothing, and it could have been so much different. For a lot of years, 20, 30, you do forget about it, and then all of a sudden it comes back. I could have been a champ or I could have been a chump, but I never got the chance to find out. I’ve been to a counsellor and psychiatrist, but what’s in your head, no one can get around it. I’ve been trying to tell someone for over 50 years, but nobody’s listened to me until now.’

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