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Jarrod's story

‘Under our law, at the tender age of 10, I considered myself a little man back then, cause I was given chores, duty of care as a 10-year-old and those duties were to care for my nan and the women around her with regards to furnishing them with warmth and fire, and … meat – bush meats, fish, all those sorts of things. That was my duty back then, and to collect wood and water for my nan. I remember it fondly. I also remember not so fondly being taken from that. I don’t remember names. I don’t remember faces.’

In the 1960s, Jarrod was playing football on the school oval when an announcement came over the loudspeaker requesting that he and his brothers and sisters attend the principal’s office. He got there to find the room crowded with people and after a short discussion between the adults, he and his siblings were taken by Victoria Police officers to the local court. There they found their mother sobbing outside the court building.

‘She was surrounded by just as many policemen and women and non-Indigenous personnel as you could imagine’, Jarrod said. ‘And this would have been my first introduction to the court justice system.’

After a brief hearing and without time for contact with their mother, the children were again put into police cars, then driven for hours to children’s homes in various parts of Victoria.

Neither Jarrod nor his siblings knew why they’d been put in the homes. Life till then had been as a close-knit group with their mother, aunts, uncles and grandparents working and caring for the children while the children’s father did seasonal work, coming and going from the family home.

For the next eight years, Jarrod remained a ward of the Victorian state, moving between numerous faith-based homes. ‘I felt alone and I was alone after coming from such a family, the mob up on the river. I was alone, but I grew with it. I grew with loneliness. [It] became a mate of mine. It wasn’t painful to be alone because it gave me solitude. These are the things I’ve learnt since: solitude and those kind of words.’

After a few years, Jarrod was pleased to be reunited with five of his siblings in a home run by the Methodists. For the first few months he had ‘such a warm feeling to be reconnected’ with them, particularly his youngest brother who was a toddler at the time they were ‘kidnapped’.

Jarrod told the Commissioner that while he was in the home he was linked to a mentor, James Albert, who was a teacher in a nearby school and visited the home on weekends. One Saturday, Albert stayed overnight at the home and late in the evening sexually assaulted Jarrod.

‘I’ve carried this burden of this wrongful thing that occurred to me by a man who was supposed to be my mentor, to assist me, like a lecturer. I trusted him … He molested me from behind with that left hand and he tried to penetrate me with his penis from behind. I froze. I froze. For some time I froze. I can’t recall how long. In my mind’s eye I froze for nearly 48 years now. And it’s just thawing out. My mind’s eye is just thawing out to tell this story. It’s not a story it’s a fact.’

At the time the assault occurred, Jarrod told the superintendent of the home, but he wasn’t believed. When the superintendent was replaced, Jarrod again disclosed the abuse, and for a second time was disbelieved.

‘I didn’t trust anyone at the time – cottage parents, other people outside my sibling fraternity. I didn’t trust my coaches, my teachers’, Jarrod said. ‘I lost trust. For a long, long time I lost trust. I lost trust in the Church, particularly the Methodists because that’s who ran the Church.’

After leaving the home at 18, and no longer a ward of the state, Jarrod became aware of his many losses: culture, language and connection to country. He set about finding them again. The 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report made him further realise the depth and extent of pain in his community.

‘[That report was important] but it doesn’t personify wholeheartedly the real core of institutionalisation, and it doesn’t personify history. The word history is a funny word because it doesn’t include me or mine.

‘I haven’t lost a lot of people on the way. I know where they are. Death is not a loss to me, but certainly a lot of people have gone to the dreaming since I was 10. … I’m luckier than most men my age. By the time I was 40 I was a World Health Organisation statistic so I’ve outlived that by 18 years now.’

Jarrod said that he was coming to the Royal Commission in order to ‘right a wrong’.

‘I thought I was a big strong boy. I still think that I’m a big strong boy trapped in this man’s body. I’ve learned that you can’t let a wrong go by. A wrong is a wrong and that’s why I’m here today to let you know that a wrong occurred to me on my own land and it irks me to keep historically, humanly, it irks me to go through pain.

‘In my 58 years in this place called Australia I don’t like what I see, I don’t like what I hear when it comes to children and the abuse of them and the women, their mothers. Men like me, there isn’t many around who can talk like I do, and to sit and be given the opportunity for deep time, and when I say deep time I mean some of the old, old laws, BC laws – before Cook stuff, you know.

‘The old laws of patience, the old laws of sitting in circle and the old laws of watching women teaching my little brothers and sisters, I miss that dearly. They’re not gone those days. The people have, the old people have, but their spirit and their learnedness, they passed onto me.’

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