Jameson is an Aboriginal man who lives with a hearing impairment, using hearing aids and lip-reading to assist his communication. When he was very young the government decided it was best for him to go to a school specifically for deaf children.
He started at the school in the mid-1980s, when he was around four years old. The children at the facility were not allowed to speak or attempt to use their voices, and made to communicate only in sign language. This made him feel like they did not want the students to belong in mainstream society.
The school told Jameson’s family that they should not speak to him verbally when he was at home, but only sign with him instead. They ignored this advice as it was not practical in a household where nobody else communicated this way.
The school was in suburban Melbourne, and Jameson boarded because his family lived far away. The children slept in dormitories, and were subjected to frequent physical abuse. He remembers being beaten with a wooden spoon on his bare bottom, and another time when he was held down by staff and belted repeatedly for getting a glass of water during the night. Isolation was used as a punishment too.
Jameson was also sexually abused at the school, and finds it very difficult to talk about this abuse in detail. He told the Royal Commission that this abuse was perpetrated by both male and female carers, and would happen at bath times. He is certain that other children were being sexually abused there too.
He disclosed this abuse to his parents, and they reported it to the school’s principal. They removed him from the school, but it appears there was no further action taken.
After leaving the facility, Jameson went to a mainstream school. He began bedwetting as a result of the abuse, and did so until he was eight, which he found very embarrassing.
He later suffered depression and anxiety attacks. Sometimes he will still hide under his blankets at night, because this is what he used to do in the dormitories.
Jameson has a nephew who is four years old – the age he was when he started at the school – and finds that seeing him triggers memories of the abuse. His family are supportive, and he engaged with counselling when he was a teenager. Although he is not currently accessing any professional support, he is considering doing so again. Jameson has recently decided to speak with police about the matter, and is looking into what legal options may be available to him.