With an alcoholic father and a mother who also drank and used prescription drugs, John-Paul’s childhood was far from happy.
‘I don’t remember a lot about it but yeah, it wasn’t good. My father was always fighting. I can hardly remember my mother. I can’t remember an instance of her, until after I left the home. I don’t know why …
‘I don’t blame me parents. I don’t think they knew how to handle children. I really think that, ‘cause I ended up the same way.’
In the early 1960s, when John-Paul was 12, he and most of his siblings were made wards of the state and separated. He recalled that his brother Terence was sent to a children’s home in north-west New South Wales, and he was placed in a government-run boys’ home in Sydney’s inner-west.
‘A lot of things I can’t remember, like I don’t know how long I was there for. Things like that I think I’ve wiped it out of my mind.’
John-Paul was sexually abused a number of times by one of the home’s officers, a trauma he finds very difficult to talk about more than 50 years later.
‘I hope he’s in hell’, John-Paul said.
There was no one at the home he could tell about the abuse, and his parents never came to see him. Even when he was released from state care several years later and returned to his mother, she didn’t want him.
He began drinking at a young age and described himself as an alcoholic. He has nightmares of his time in the home and said he had no self-confidence.
‘When I get disappointed in my life it knocks me back. Still does …
‘I can’t trust people, still ... I don’t get on with male bosses, even though I’m a good worker. I just … I don’t trust blokes. And I’m 66, it’s ridiculous. I’ve always been like that.’
John-Paul has never made a statement to police nor spoken to a lawyer. He also doesn’t believe he could cope with counselling for the abuse.
‘I’ve seen psychologists over the years and I’ve wanted to say something to them about it but I have never been able to. I’ve seen them about drugs and alcohol.
‘Having to talk to you I get upset about it. To see someone, you know, to front to someone and to tell them, I don’t think I could. I get too upset, I cry just about every day.
‘I just want it to go away.’
John-Paul first spoke about the sexual abuse to his brother Terence, in the early 2010s. Terence revealed he had also been abused in a home, and they promised each other that, one day, they would come forward. When Terence passed away a few years later, John-Paul came to the Royal Commission to honour that promise.
His recommendation to the Commissioner was for a more in-depth screening process for institutional staff.
‘To really look into the – especially the men who work in institutions and other places – to really check them out … Because it’s happened to my brother and myself … it’s not right, it’s just not right.’
John-Paul is retired and has health problems, but he gets a lot of satisfaction doing volunteer work.
‘I like to help people … And to do plenty of fishing.’