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Lance Michael's story

Lance was an orphan by the time he was six years old. His parents died within months of each other, in the mid-1970s, so he and his siblings were made wards of the state.

The children were sent to a Catholic children’s home in Brisbane, but split up into different cottages there. Lance lived at the home for around a decade, before running away and being placed in hostel.

Throughout his time at the home, Lance was sexually abused by a number of different boys, both his age and older, and a trio of sisters he remembers as ‘the Shaws’. A female staff member, who was in her 20s, also molested him.

Lance was occasionally sent to stay with a family outside the home on weekends. The eldest son sexually abused him a few times, when the parents left them unsupervised. This abuse ended when he told another of the children, and he was never sent to this family again.

Other than this disclosure, Lance did not tell anyone about being sexually abused for many years. He was scared because the older boys at the home had threatened him. ‘I never talked about it ... I was ashamed, embarrassed.’

As an adult, Lance first told his brother David around 10 years ago. This happened when he and several of his siblings were starting the process of making claims through a state redress scheme. Although he was awarded a moderate amount of compensation, Lance found participating in this scheme to be quite a negative experience.

When he attended the settlement conference, there was supposed to be a lawyer or mediator to represent him, but this was not the case. The conference went ahead anyway, and Lance felt he did not get much of a say. It was hard to discuss compensation immediately after detailing the abuse.

‘Talking about the past and stuff that’s happened, and I’m all upset. And then they want us to talk about money, and everything. Like, I don’t know, my mind’s somewhere else.’

At this time Lance also learned that most of his brothers and sisters had also been sexually abused while in care. Already struggling with remembering and discussing his own experiences, it was very hard for him to find out that others in his family had been abused too.

Lance came to the Royal Commission to share his family’s story, particularly for the memory of David, who has since passed away. He has never contacted police regarding the sexual assaults he experienced.

The abuse continues to impact on his life. ‘I’ve always lived alone. I can’t have children. I don’t know whether that’s because of the sexual abuse when I was younger.’

Lance tries not to dwell on the abuse. He just wants to keep moving forward. He hasn’t had any counselling, preferring to work on his issues alone. ‘Every problem has a solution I think. I don’t talk to people, I’m just used to sorting my own thing.’

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