Krispin was five years old in the mid-1940s when his parents separated. He and his brother were placed in an orphanage for two years before they were sent from England to a farm school in regional Western Australia.
‘I always remember the mother kicking us out the house as young as I was, as a five-year-old … That’s things you never forget as a kid.’
Krispin found the farm a harsh and uncompromising place. Upon arriving in the blistering heat, his clothes and belongings were taken and he was provided with ‘a t-shirt and a pair of black shorts. That’s what you wear while you’re here. No shoes, no socks, no Japanese safety boots - which is a pair of thongs - they weren’t invented in those days I don’t think. That’s what we had to wear. They were gravel roads. No footpaths, gravel roads. We had 300 metres to go from the cottage that we were put into to the dining room … Blisters on your feet after the first day, ‘cause it was stinking hot’.
In addition to inadequate clothing and food rations, Krispin was forced to labour under poor conditions and brutally beaten by his cottage parents if he complained. His cottage mother made him wear a nappy in public if he wet the bed, and he was frequently told he would never amount to anything. Because he was often sick and spent months in the infirmary, he missed much of his schooling and no effort was made to help him catch up.
When Krispin was 12 he was approached by Anton Wardell, who was about four years older, and invited to go for a walk to see the cubby house he had made out of hay bales. When Krispin followed Wardell to the cubby, he was trapped inside.
‘Then he started to molest me, which I didn’t know about ... And I tried to get out of there and he wouldn’t let me go. And then he made me masturbate him.’
Krispin eventually broke free and ran away but not before Wardell threatened to ‘get’ him if he told anyone. After that Krispin avoided Wardell at all costs.
‘About nine to 12 months later I get the call from the headmaster. He come into the school and he asked the teacher where I was at and he wanted to see me. So he took me into his office out the back room, had me by the chin, lifted me up in the air and said “Right, I wanna know everything that you know about Anton Wardell” …
‘Anyway, he interrogated me for two hours. And I said, “I can’t tell you anything, I don’t know anything”. I was just as determined then because of all the threats that had been made to me that I wouldn’t say anything.’
It transpired that the headmaster’s son had complained that Wardell had molested him, and the headmaster was seeking other potential victims. Krispin believed Wardell would make good on his threat to hurt him if he told anyone, so he refused to disclose the abuse.
At 16 Krispin was put to work full time after he was told that he had the education of a 10 year old and would not be fit for anything better than farm labour. ‘Most of the time you’re cleaning out pigsties … The quarters that I was living in you wouldn’t put an animal in.’ He worked hard and eventually married and had children. He now has a loving and supportive family although he carries a lot of anger over his treatment as a child.
‘Education was the thing that’s hurt me all my life. I’ve got paperwork in here that turned around and said that my IQ, when they tested me in England before they shipped us out, was 106. Well, I always thought that if you had an IQ of 106 you had a reasonable knowledge for picking things up. That’s what I understand … I didn’t go to high school. They reckon I wasn’t good enough to go to high school so they put on the farm working. So no education, zilch as far as I’m concerned.’
‘There’s anger there. It’s never gonna go. The anger that I’ve got I’ll never get rid of. I mean, how can you? You were a kid. But I won’t let it happen to my kids or my grandkids while I’m still alive.’
Many years after leaving the farm, Krispin discovered that Wardell ‘got convicted and done 30-odd years behind bars’ before he was deported back to England. He is now deceased.
‘I didn’t know he was punished until they were shipping him out of the country in a wheelchair. I felt like getting a gun, going and shooting him before he went through the bloody gate, to be honest with you. Sorry, but that’s the way I felt. If I could’ve I would’ve. Those things should never happen to anyone.’
Although Krispin’s wife and children have some awareness of the years he spent on the farm, he still carries a sense of shame over Wardell’s abuse and cannot bring himself to tell them about it. ‘Even the wife doesn’t know that side of it … It’s hard to get through.’
Krispin never reported Wardell to the police but he did receive $13,000 from Redress WA, a figure he described as ‘grossly inadequate’ given he was subjected to 10 years of incarceration on the farm. He has never received counselling but is supported by the Child Migrant Trust, and finds that having people there to talk to is therapeutic.
‘People say “You gotta forget”. How can you forget? You can’t forget. This is something that happened to you, should never have happened.’