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Jansen's story

‘It was apparently organised through the school. I was in infants’ school at the time; my understanding is it was something to do with the Education Department. They gave new Australians, the mum and dad a break from the kids by putting the kids away.’

Jansen emigrated to Australia in the 1950s with his parents and sister and at the time of their arrival in the country, the family spoke little English. Jansen remembered his father as a ‘sadistic’ man and ‘control freak’ who meted out harsh physical punishment for small misdemeanours.

Although English wasn’t Jansen’s first language, he learnt quickly from the time he started kindergarten. Throughout his school years however, he was often taunted by other children.

‘I was called Kraut and things like that you know, but by the time I was sort of third, fourth, fifth class that had sort of pretty much washed out. It started again in high school slightly, but it didn’t sort of stick much. They were too busy picking on what they called the wogs: the Italians and the Yugoslavs and all that.’

When Jansen was seven years old, he spent a few weeks in a coastal children’s home that was owned by the New South Wales Government. The stay was organised to give his parents respite but while he was there, Jansen was sexually assaulted by an older man. Afterwards he became ‘uncontrollable’, rebelling against the authority of his father and teachers. He didn’t think of telling his parents about the assault for fear of being beaten by his father.

At 15, Jansen was brought before a magistrate and made a ward of the state. Sent to an Anglican boys’ home for a period of two years, Jansen was sexually abused while he was there by the manager, Mr McEwan.

Initially, Jansen liked McEwan. ‘He was like a father-figure sort of thing. He was probably the first male adult that I could talk with. If I tried to talk to my father I got slapped into the ground you know – backhanded. My father hardly ever spoke to me. I can’t remember him saying more than two or three words in the string of a sentence.’

McEwan often organised trips away, taking two or three boys with him to a house near the beach. Jansen went several times and was sexually abused by McEwan with the abuse escalating from fondling to anal rape.

Before the abuse started and subsequently, McEwan had never been threatening towards Jansen. He’d said words to the effect of, ‘whatever happened at weekends away, stays at weekends away’.

‘He treated you respectfully you know. He listened to what you had to say and stuff like that, you know. He’d joke with you and stuff like that. He never stopped being like that. He was always like that, that didn’t change. It was just everything else became extra parts of him, you know.’

Throughout the two years he was there, Jansen absconded several times. On the first occasion, he was found at his mother’s house and swiftly returned. At his second attempt, he caught the train to a regional town and booked into a youth hostel that didn’t have a full-time manager. However, some local people became alert to him being there and notified police.

At the police station, an officer asked Jansen why he’d run away, and he replied that he was being sexually abused.

‘His attitude was, “Well mate, you’re in a boys’ home, what the hell do you expect?” From that point onwards I had even less of a trust in any adult as to who I could talk to, who I couldn’t.’

Apart from one 10-year relationship which had ended some years previously, Jansen had lived alone. He’d told his then-partner about the abuse and aside from recent disclosures to a support group and to the Royal Commission, his mother had found out after one night he’d ‘blurted it out’.

‘I do feel a bit guilty that Mum found out about it and I feel it played towards her demise’, Jansen said. ‘She said to me, “Look, there’s no good making any waves about it. The guy’s probably long dead anyway, and all you’re going to do is bring trouble down on yourself and your own family name”. And back then there was no Commission. So while she was still alive, I kept my gob shut and since I feel that it may have played to her demise, finding out about this, I feel like I probably owe it to her to do something about it.’

He was working with staff of the support group towards making another report of the abuse to police and was also considering whether to make a civil claim for compensation.

‘I think we’re owed a lot’, he said. ‘Whether it be by the Education Department, whether it be by the churches or whatever else, you know. I think we’re owed a lot basically, because it’s not just that time [and] what happened you know – that one, two, three, 10 days or whatever else ... it happened to us in our childhood, it’s affected our whole life. Instead of being up here somewhere, we’re down there somewhere. There’s a massive gap missing – financially, emotionally and everything else.’

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