Jason Edward's story

When it comes to redress, Jason has the Queensland welfare system in his sights. ‘It was their job to put me in care, not put me in harm’s way, three times.’

Jason grew up in north Queensland with his father and stepmother. He wasn’t a rebellious child, mainly because his father beat him severely if he acted up. One day his teacher asked why he always wore long trousers to school, even in the heat. He asked Jason to roll them up. He did so reluctantly. When the teacher saw the welts and bruises on his legs, family services were called in.

Jason was made a state ward at nine. His dad was charged but nothing happened. From the early 1990s Jason was shuttled between foster care and boys’ homes.

He was first sexually abused by his older foster brother. Jason was 10 and it was his first placement. The older boy, who was already in high school, would get into bed with him at night and perform oral sex on him. Jason pretended to be asleep.

Without going into details, Jason told his case worker he wanted to get out of there. He went to several other foster homes before he was placed in a youth centre where he fell straight into the hands of Brother O’Brien, a live-in carer.

O’Brien sexually abused him several times. Family services was looking for other places that would foster Jason, but in the meantime he had to stay where he was.

Jason ended up in BoysTown when he was 12. He was there for three years. ‘Of course’ it was violent, he told the Commissioner.

Jason was sexually abused by Brother Donnelly at BoysTown as well as by some of the cottage parents. He ran away but staff found him. He was given a beating and locked in a cell for two days.

The only highlights for Jason during his three years at BoysTown were the regular holidays he had at a foster home – the best home he’d ever been to.

But no matter how nice they were, he couldn’t tell his foster parents about the abuse at BoysTown. ‘I was too young and naive at the time. I didn’t know what to do, or what to say.’ He was embarrassed and ashamed.

‘Now it’s out in the open and it took me a while, many years, and a shitload of drugs and money’, he laughed.

When Jason left BoysTown he went back to the foster home. And when he turned 16, he went travelling. During that time he ‘worked and ran amok’.

Jason has a criminal record and is currently in prison. He’s used all kinds of illegal drugs – ‘you name it, I was on it’ – and has been admitted into mental hospitals in several states. He’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The anger at how he was treated boiled away inside him for years.

Jason was part of a class action against BoysTown, a process that he described as ridiculous. After that, Jason got some counselling. He finally talked about the sexual abuse. He had to because he was boiling with anger all the time.

‘It made me feel good. I didn’t have it sitting on my chest anymore ... It happened and it just can’t hide. Because I hid it for so long, 35 years I hid it for.’

He’s not on good medication for his mental illness at the moment. He sees the prison psychologist but ‘they just do half a job here. They don’t really care’.

The impact of the sexual abuse on Jason continues. He hates watching TV because he gets flashbacks.

‘It’s like a murder charge. It’s stuck in the victim’s brain … for the rest of their life.’

Jason recommended to the Commission that people working with kids get screened more thoroughly.

Also, he says, case workers should be more alert to signs of danger from a foster child who might be too scared to speak out. Jason believes it has to be made easier for kids to report abuse.

‘It’s not about money, it’s about fixing the system. If you don’t, I won’t be here. In a year’s time, it’ll be somebody else.’

Jason has kids of his own.

‘You’re supposed to protect them, not abuse the shit out of them … You’re supposed to be a role model for a child. You’re supposed to look after them, spoil them rotten and kick their arses when you need to. That’s about it.’

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