Jonty’s mother give birth to him but left him in the hospital. She couldn’t take him home because his father was Aboriginal, and not her husband. It was the 1950s.
Jonty was made a ward of the state, and placed in the care of his mother’s parents in a small regional New South Wales town. His Uncle Peter, his wife and their children lived with them too. Jonty was the half-caste kid in a white family, and they never hid from him the shame they felt about his presence amongst them.
Jonty loved his grandparents. He called them Mum and Dad. ‘They told me I had to be truthful and tell them everything that goes on’, Jonty said.
So when Jonty was sexually abused by his uncle, he told them.
Jonty was seven at the time. His uncle, Craig, was visiting from Sydney. One night Craig came into Jonty’s room. He told Jonty he’d seen him scratching his bum, and said he probably had worms. He offered to take a look. Jonty innocently pulled down his pyjama pants, knelt on the floor and leant over the bed as instructed. Then Craig raped him.
‘I told Mum the next morning and she didn’t believe me. She said, “You must be dreaming”.’ But she believed Jonty after seeing his bloodstained pants. Uncle Craig was kicked out of the house and told not to return. Over 50 years later, Jonty has not seen him since.
‘Ever since that day, I haven’t been the same’, Jonty told the Commissioner in a written statement.
There was other abuse as well. His Uncle Peter regularly beat him, on one occasion smashing his nose. ‘I was made to work all the time and bashed if I didn’t’, Jonty said. ‘Sometimes I had to stay home till the bruising from the bashing my uncle gave me every time he was drunk [faded] …
‘It’s hard to understand why and at my age it’s very hard to forget and come to terms with it.’
Jonty also told his grandparents when he was sexually assaulted by the principal at the local primary school he attended. Mr Bexley had summoned Jonty to detention, even though he’d done nothing wrong.
‘So I had to go to his office and put me hand down his pants. Then he told me I have to take my trousers off otherwise I’ll get caned. Then he done what he had to do.’
This happened a few times. Bexley assaulted other boys as well. When Jonty told his grandmother she contacted other parents. ‘Mr Bexley got taken away from school and we didn’t see him anymore.’ Bexley was eventually charged with offences against the boys, and according to Jonty committed suicide while awaiting trial.
As well as dealing with abuse at home, Jonty was teased and attacked by kids at school. ‘I was called an orphan and all sorts of shit.’ Eventually he started hitting back. When he was 14 his grandfather died and his grandmother took him out of school. He was sent to a job on a distant rural property. The family was happy to see him go, Jonty said.
‘I think I was a big embarrassment to them. That’s how I felt all my life.’
Jonty worked at that property for three and a half years. Other jobs on other stations followed. He married, and had three daughters. In 2011 he had a bad accident at work, and took months to recover. Back at work, another bad accident left him badly injured again. When he spoke to the Commissioner he had not been able to work for some years, and was in constant pain. It ‘absolutely kills me’, he said.
Jonty spoke to the Commissioner from a correctional facility, where he was awaiting trial on charges he didn’t want to talk about.
‘Everything’s just gone to shit. What’s the use of living, mate?’ he asked.
His experiences of abuse in childhood ‘destroyed me’, he said. ‘I just rebelled against everybody. I didn’t care what anybody said. I just wouldn’t listen. I thought that society hated me, so I hated it. …
‘I’ve got nothing left in life now.’