‘Cooked cabbage I hate. I used to put it in me dressing gown and I’d throw it out, and he sprung me … he made me put it back on a plate and I sat there all night, he said, “Eat it”, and I wouldn’t eat it, and while I wouldn’t eat it I was getting flogged on the back of the head.
‘I got hit on the head too many times. There are things I don’t remember, 'cause I got bashed too many times.’
Ivor spent almost all of his childhood years in institutional care, after his mother died when he was still a baby in the early 1950s. Ivor’s earliest memories are of a boys’ home run by the Church of England in a Brisbane suburb. There Ivor was regularly sexually abused by the superintendent.
‘There was a bloke called “Skip” – we knew him as “Skip”,’ Ivor told the Commissioner. ‘He used to proposition all the boys and then he’d rape us when he felt like it. We all went through it.’
Skip was replaced as superintendent by another man. Ivor can’t recall his name, but the abuse continued: ‘He was just as bad.’
Until he was 16, Ivor was moved around a number of homes and detention centres. They were all tough places, and Ivor describes long years of physical and mental abuse. At 11, Ivor was sent to a youth detention centre in regional Queensland, where he was often punished by being thrown into solitary cells.
‘You only had a blanket and an old bit of mat on the floor. That’s all I had to sleep on – a bit of mat. In maybe half an hour or an hour they’d come around, and if you weren’t up you’d get the shit belted out of you. And one of the screws would stay back and have sexual intercourse with you, then tell you to go and have a cold shower. In the middle of winter. It was pretty bad.’
As Ivor grew older, he rebelled against the harsh treatment, trying to stand up for himself. ‘I always fought against them. That’s why I spent a lot of time in cells … I fought the system, I was always in trouble.’
There were riots at the detention centre, with boys climbing onto the roof and setting fires. ‘I was a ringleader. I got thrown off the roof. They brought down the coppers and the army to put it down.
‘That was over all the raping that was going on. We were just pin cushions to them. You know what I mean – they can just take it when they want it.’
Some of the records from his time in state care have found their way to Ivor. A psychiatric report written when Ivor was 16 states, ‘[Ivor is] a borderline mental defective whose EEG showed a disorder of brainstem function … his personality is assessed as schizoid with aggressive tendencies and is related to his institutionalisation from the age of two years.’ The report recommended further psychiatric assessment but none was ever undertaken.
Ivor left Queensland when he was 18. He headed south to Sydney and worked in Kings Cross for a while, where he felt he belonged. He spent time in prisons and believes they were better places to live than the boys’ homes. Ivor received more respect in prison than outside. ‘Everyone was like me.’
Ivor had children, but lost contact with them when he went to prison. In his 30s he met and married his wife Maureen – they have been together ever since. The two of them are looking after some of his grandchildren, trying to keep them away from state care, which Ivor understandably mistrusts.
He was nearly 60 when he started talking to Maureen about his history of abuse. She described the ‘tears rolling down her cheeks’ as she heard what he’d been through as a child. Ivor has since obtained some cash compensation from various redress schemes run by the Church of England, the Salvation Army and the Queensland government.
Ivor has struggled with the effects of the abuse. He has difficulty with his memory and concentration, as well as his interpersonal and social skills. He is embarrassed by his experiences, feels guilty and is distressed when he talks about it. Ivor is withdrawn and suffers from depression and mood swings, and admits he gets short-tempered.
‘I live in the bush. I like to get away from people. I got problems. I’ve still got problems.’