Jake Kevin's story

‘Our culture was destroyed … My great-grandad who fought for this county in the First World War – they put up with a lot. In the early days you were forbidden to talk lingo and stuff like that, carry on your traditions. They just made it hard, to try and break the culture.’

Instead of being raised in the cultural home of his grandfather, Jake was raised in a state-run Aboriginal mission in Queensland. He was born inside the mission in the late 1950s and stayed there, with his mother and siblings, until he was about 12 years old.

During that time Jake was sexually abused by an older Aboriginal man and by a man who used to offer ‘thruppence’ to coax Jake into performing sexual favours. That abuse ceased when Jake left the home to do farm work. Still under the care of Family Services, Jake then lived for a while at a boys’ home. He was sexually abused there too.

Jake left the department’s care for good when he was in his mid-teens and took a job working as a ‘billy boy’, providing water to railway workers. He travelled around Queensland for a while before heading down to New South Wales where, one day at the local swimming hole, he met Linda, the woman who would later become his wife.

Jake and Linda have been married for over 30 years. They’ve raised many kids – some who were blood-relations and others who just needed care. Jake said, ‘I felt it was my duty to not let it be like that, how I grew up. Yeah, break the cycle’.

In his professional life too, Jake worked hard to ‘break the cycle’. His chosen field was community services, particularly youth work. It was a tough job where stubborn ignorance and systemic racism often made it impossible to achieve anything.

‘They advertised to make a difference but I found it difficult. People didn’t want to change.’

All this time – while Jake was working and raising kids – he never told anyone about the abuse, not even Linda.

‘I always thought I’d just take it to my grave with me, and that’d be – I don’t know – that’d be my relief.’

Recently, however, Jake had a conversation with his older sister about life back at the mission. Without specifically mentioning the abuse, they chatted about some of the terrible things that had happened and then Jake’s sister encouraged him to step forward and speak to the Royal Commission.

So Jake organised an interview with one of the Commission staff and, for the first time ever, he spoke about the abuse. Jake said he was glad to get it off his chest.

Jake’s not sure if he’ll take the matter further. He said he just wants to deal with things one step at a time. Plus, he’s busy enough as it is. He and Linda are dealing with some serious health problems while raising two of their grandkids.

The kids are doing well, Jake said, enjoying school five days a week and sport on the weekends. ‘We support them every way.’

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