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Kade's story

‘I don’t remember much before the age of five but I remember the daily rituals of St John of God. We sometimes played games like marbles and cricket before and after school, but mainly when there was no school we were left to our own devices. We only saw the nuns at mealtimes. During these times I was often bullied and physically attacked by the older boys. I was punched in the mouth and got split lips. The nuns told me, in effect, to grin and bear it and not be a baby.

‘A couple of times I was strapped on the hand and caned on my bare buttocks by the nuns. We had dinner at 4 pm and were put to bed at 5 pm when the sun was still out. This seemed very strange and unfair. Of course we couldn’t go to sleep so we stayed up and talked or played games.’

‘I remember one nice nun at St John of God who knitted me some jumpers. Unfortunately, when they were taken to be washed they were mixed up with all the other clothes and I never saw them again. This was another demonstration of the lack of care and personal attention that was paid to me, but also to the other boys.’

Kade can’t recall the first five years of his life. ‘It’s just a total blank’, he said. ‘I don’t know if I wiped it out or what. I don’t remember. Even in my file, the years are blank. I don’t know why.’

His memory begins in the mid-1950s in a Catholic orphanage in New South Wales, where he stayed for 10 years before moving to a government-run home for boys with intellectual disabilities.

Kade told the Commissioner that he was sexually abused in both places. ‘In the first one I was made to perform oral sex on an older boy. I was about eight years old and he was a teenager. He told me not to tell anyone so I didn’t. In the second incident I was subjected to anal sex by a 17-year-old boy. He also told me not to tell anyone.’

Around five years ago Kade was contacted by police and asked if he knew anything about sexual abuse occurring at the time he was in the orphange home. ‘I said I didn’t know anything. I still wasn’t ready to talk about it 50 years later.’

At one stage staff of the home had tried to have Kade committed to a psychiatric hospital as a permanent patient, but when he arrived the consulting psychiatrist said there was nothing wrong with him and all he needed was some nurturing.

Kade left the homes when he was 18. For decades he moved between jobs doing physical and unskilled labour, usually being employed in ‘sheltered workshops’. His full-time pay was the same in each place: $7.50 per week.

Finding accommodation was difficult and he shifted between boarding houses, where he was often bullied and always financially exploited. At one place he was coerced by another boarder into smoking which led to him having a packet and a half a day habit. At 40, he had his first heart attack.

‘In between 1990 and 2000, I had a series of heart attacks which led me to having a triple bypass operation. I feel if there would have been someone to help me stand up to this boarder I may never have started to smoke in the first place.’

Kade had never sought compensation and he’d had no further contact with police after their phone call to him.

In his early 60s, he was successful in applying for public housing. Since then he’s become part of a community. He feels valued by other residents who he helps out doing odd jobs for them.

One resident, Mary, accompanied him to the Royal Commission. She has helped resolved long-standing issues Kade had with banks and institutions lending him money at high interest rates and selling him things he didn’t need at inflated prices.

Mary and another of Kade’s friends, Ben, had helped in compiling his statement to the Royal Commission.

‘My family has taken him under our wing’, Mary said. ‘He attends parties, birthday parties. They really love him. They look after him and my little granddaughters actually cuddle him. He’s never been cuddled, he’s never been touched.’ All the older women in the complex loved him, she said.

‘It’s been important for me to tell you my story’, Kade said. ‘To show you how my experience in institutional care has affected me. It took me 43 years to finally get a decent place to live. I have friends in the block who look out for me and I have [my dog].’

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