Laurin's story

Laurin was raised in northern New South Wales, the youngest of six children. He describes his family as ‘a good family unit’ with his mother at home looking after the kids and his father building computers for a living. His mother was religious and Laurin remembers the family going to church regularly.

Laurin’s peaceful family life fell to pieces completely when his mother died of cancer. Laurin was eight years old. His father struggled to bring up the kids on his own and not long afterwards the family came to the attention of the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

In the 1990s Laurin’s father committed a serious crime and was sentenced to a period of imprisonment. The following year Laurin became a ward of the state and was placed in foster care. Around this time he also started drinking alcohol.

To Laurin’s great distress he wasn’t allowed any contact with his family and so his pattern of running away began. He would run off to try and see his dad, get caught, locked up and taken to a new foster home. His longest stay with a family was nine months.

Laurin was 12 years old when he was placed with Joan and Alex Johnston. He says that Alex started to touch him inappropriately and one day, after Laurin had been living there for a few months, the two of them were playing table tennis. Alex forced him to the ground and raped him.

Laurin went to the local DOCS office and told his case worker and a youth worker what had happened. His father must have been out of prison by this stage because both DOCS staff accused him of lying so that he could go back to his father. They did not arrange for a doctor to examine him, and a male officer drove him back to the Johnstons’ house.

Laurin promptly had a physical fight with Alex Johnston in the front yard. It became obvious that DOCS had to find another placement for him.

Laurin went on road trips with ever-changing case workers through several Australian states.

‘They got a youth worker and a car and sent me to South Australia.’ He stayed in motels there for two weeks because no foster homes were available, then was driven to Queensland where he stayed, again in motels, for two weeks then came back to NSW where he was shifted around the state.

Laurin came out of foster care angry and aggressive and with no trust in adults or in authority generally. He was set up in housing but had no ongoing counselling. He was close to no-one emotionally or physically. ‘I just didn’t want to have sex. So I never had sex.’

In his late teens Laurin was charged with the rape of a 17-year-old girl. He pleaded guilty and has been in custody since the mid-2000s. He spoke to the Commissioner from jail and had completed the CUBIT sex offender treatment program. He said this helped him identify the feelings that resulted in his actions and made him recognise contributing risk factors like alcohol. It taught him ‘to think before I do anything in the future’.

Laurin reported Alex Johnston’s sexual abuse of him in the 2010s to detectives in NSW. He was told by one detective that it was a historical case and it would be investigated but that ‘at this point he had other stuff to do’. Laurin never heard back from him.

He was keen for the Royal Commission to help him follow up on this.

Laurin was diagnosed four years ago with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and schizophrenia, for which he was taking medication.

In terms of recommendations, Laurin thinks it was cruel and unnecessary to be barred from seeing his father and siblings. He told the Commissioner he would have been much more stable in his foster homes if he’d had that regular contact. It certainly would have helped him when he was 10, in foster care and struggling with the shock of his mother’s death.

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