Lauchie and his siblings were placed in a children’s home in Victoria when their single mother was unable to care for them. Their mother worked hard to try to pay for them to live in care without losing custody, but when she fell into arrears she was threatened with punitive action and forced to release her children.
‘I was made a ward of the state purely and simply [because] my mum was made out to be a slut.’
Lauchie was eight when he was sent to a home that housed approximately 60 young boys. The superintendent ran it in a militaristic fashion, with housemasters carrying ‘weapons’ such as a rounder’s bat or a sergeant major’s staff stick to punish boys for minor infractions. Strappings were also common, and because they were delivered publically, the boys took great pride in showing no response to the violence. ‘A lot of the time there was a challenge in that you weren’t allowed to show pain.
‘The superintendent, he conducted health inspections which included fondling the genitalia and sticking his digit up your anus … He’d look at your penis and he’d roll it back ,and he’d look at your arms and then he said, “You’ve been masturbating, haven’t you?” And if you were stupid enough to admit to it, the kids had to go to bed with boxing gloves.’
Lauchie was nearly nine when he was sick with gastroenteritis and went to visit the housemaster, Mr Perkins. When he arrived, Perkins made him lie on the couch with his head on his lap before turning him onto his belly, rubbing his penis between his buttocks and ejaculating on his back. Lauchie left and vomited in the toilet block before returning to his dormitory. Later he told his brother what had happened.
‘I was eight, confused and did not know what really happened. My brother’s response was defensive and confusing. He told me I was a fuckwit. “Stay away from them. Never get caught alone with them. It happens to everyone”.’
Lauchie told the Commissioner that the violent interactions which often erupted between the boys were encouraged by the staff. ‘The superintendent had already said to us, “What are you? Girls? Go and sort out your own problems”. So we went down and sorted out our own problems.
‘At the age of 10 or 11, a kid pushed me into a wall and hurt me. I went and got a hockey stick. I can remember my lips shaking and my knees shaking, and being terrified and thinking to myself, “If I back down from this prick and just hit him on the knee or hit him on the shoulder or whatever he is going to beat the shit out of me”.
'So I lifted the hockey stick up and smashed him straight on the top of his head and split his head open. He was bleeding profusely. I continued to belt him while he was on the ground and they had to drag me off.
'The ambulance was called. The rumour went round the boys’ home, “Keep away from that little fat Lauchie, he’s a bit of a nut”.
‘And from then on, I realised – I’m not stupid – I realised that power and violence were a way to become someone and be something instead of the useless piece of crap that you were. Which is how you were treated.
'The strange thing is, from then on I would’ve had two fights a week. Usually minor ones, but purely and simply to assert my dominance. And I honestly don’t believe I’m a violent person. I think the institution changes who and what you are.
‘It’s very difficult for me to explain the danger and the fear and the terror that institutionalisation caused … Make no mistake, the only reason I survived … was I broke all the rules. I was more violent than them. I was nastier than them. And it was totally against my natural character.’
In spite of his violent reputation, Lauchie was again sexually abused at the age of 13 when he woke up to find a staff member fondling his genitals.
Lauchie told the Commissioner that in the 10 years he lived in that home he was never visited by a welfare or social worker. ‘“Why didn’t you report?” It was purely and simply no one to report to.’
After leaving the home Lauchie attended university and became a teacher, which was unprecedented as most of the residents at the home ‘killed themselves, murdered people, went to jail and are being in and out of jails ever since’.
‘I worked for 12 years as a teacher and I worked my arse off. And all it was for was to prove to people that I was worth something. And I worked myself into a nervous breakdown.’
Lauchie also returned to the home to serve on the committee for several years. ‘To be perfectly frank with you, I feel guilty that I survived.’
Lauchie has been happily married for more than 40 years and has several children as well as grandchildren. He does not believe the sexual abuse he experienced has had a terrible impact on him as an adult. However, recently Lauchie was playing with his grandson when memories of his time at the boys’ home came flooding back.
‘We were playing kick to kick and then all of a sudden this thing hit me: “You’re of the age when I was fucked and I first went into the boys’ home”. And it’s absolutely impossible to describe the feeling of horror, sorrow, regret, love, wanting to protect him … all these combined feelings.’