‘I was … between eight and nine. We went to camp. Unfortunately it was run by one of South Australia’s biggest paedophiles … We got picked up at the bus station. All of our parents waved goodbye. Obviously they all thought that we were safe. You’re supposed to be safe.’
Kristy, her siblings and her cousins all attended weekend children’s camps in the 1980s, run by Barry Knight and Keith Farmer, both of whom sexually abused the children in their care.
Kristy first noticed something was not quite right at the camp when she saw that there were no doors on the showers or toilets, ‘and to me, that was a bit like … “Well, that’s fucking odd”’. All the children slept in one ‘massive room’ so, to gain a little privacy, Kristy’s brother and older cousin would hold up towels for her when she got changed, or when she was in the shower.
‘It’s only as I’ve got a lot older that I’ve thought, “You putrid …” but we’d go to get changed and [Knight would] say, “Oh, it’s okay. We’re all the same”, but that was always odd to me.’
Downstairs in the enormous building, ‘there was a clay room, but only certain kids got to go to the clay room. Well, that’s obviously where the majority of the child tampering … went on’. Kristy remembers sneaking down to look through the window, ‘and there were kids running around naked in the clay room and him building penises out of clay’.
Kristy said, ‘They did give us things … you know, a kid with a bag of lollies. You never really think of that until you get older and understand what they mean by an older man with a bag of lollies … That was our treat for a Saturday night. If you behaved, and you conformed, you got your bag of lollies’.
When the children were watching a scary movie one night, Kristy was ‘petrified and I ran out … and I ran into a room and I can still picture it. [Keith Farmer] … had a young boy sucking his dick and I was fucking mortified. Well, I ran out and I ran back and told the people what had happened. I was sent home … immediately … because of “my behaviour”’.
Kristy was eventually sent back to the camps and ‘it got progressively worse. [Barry Knight] was smacking me behind closed doors and pulling my hair. The last time I ever went to the camp he grabbed my boobs and tried to like touch both sides of me ... And so, from that day onwards, every time my parents tried to take me to the camp, I would run away’. Kristy didn’t tell them about the abuse, because she was scared of getting into trouble.
‘The impact of that has been great over my life because then I was sexually assaulted when I was 15 by my grandfather and again … I couldn’t do it. Because when I did speak about what had happened at the … camp, nobody believed me, because he was just this … fabulous guy, doing things for the children.’
Barry Knight was eventually jailed for the sexual abuse of a number of children.
‘His impact on so many people’s lives, and then he tries to get back out. Like, what the fuck? He should never be released, because it wasn’t just me. It wasn’t just my family. There was hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of children.’
Kristy believes that Knight is responsible for her current term in jail. ‘The effects … I guess, have been a more recent sexual assault … Nobody believed us when we were kids, so why would anybody believe you when you’re an adult … It led me back to … jail, me trying to deal with it in my own way …
‘Knight has had a damaging effect on me because it’s stopped me over the years, talking about other things … We were made to feel ashamed of ourselves too by him. “Oh, what, are you ashamed of your body?” … and, “Oh, look at your little boobs” and the more I think about it, “Who the fuck are you to even be looking at my boobs. You’re a man”. It’s horrible. And when he touched me, I was just … I can still picture [it] …
‘I felt like I was constantly trying to wash him away from me. Then I’d go back two weeks later. It’s just the way he looked at you and, you know …’
Kristy said, ‘I’m glad I was a bit naughty, because I never got to go to that clay room and you know, that’s really stuck in my head, that clay room, and [when I] drive past that place now … it gives me the absolute creeps’.
The experiences at the camp also had an impact on her schooling. ‘Whenever I had a male teacher, there was not a chance.’ Her report card for one subject read, ‘Never even seen her.’
Kristy wasn’t aware that she was able to report Knight’s abuse to the police, and believes that he was never charged with offences committed at the camps she attended.
‘I think it’s because people like me haven’t reported it … But it’s people like me … that need, even though [the perpetrators have] grown old or whatever, who gives a fuck? They still need to be … accountable for their actions. Whether they die in jail … we still have to have some justification that they are going to be held accountable somewhere.’