Lawrence’s father was a World War II veteran who ‘had his own issues I suppose’, but Lawrence described him as ‘a bewdy’. His mother ‘wasn’t a hundred per cent. I’ll just leave it at that. She never was. But somehow she arranged for that mob to come and pick me up …
‘Truancy officers, or whatever … came and grabbed me in me bedroom first thing in the morning. Me father had no idea what was going on … It’s all me mother. She got me put in there so she could shoot through on me old man … I’ve had nothing to do with her since me childhood.’
Although Lawrence doesn’t believe he was ever charged with anything, he was sent to a juvenile detention centre in Sydney in the early 1980s, where he stayed for several months before being returned to the care of his father.
‘If someone had listened and talked to me father instead of just going on what a rotten woman was talking about. The old man was oblivious to what went on …’
Lawrence was 13 or 14 when he was sent to the detention centre and during his time there he was physically and sexually abused by older boys. There was one officer who kept an eye on him, but several others witnessed the abuse and did nothing.
Although he was good at sports, Lawrence couldn’t swim very well, so he hated being forced to go to the swimming pool at the detention centre.
‘There was this one … bastard … he must have been at least 17 or something and he just walks around smashing people and doing as he will … He got me one day. There was another one [at the pool] … They just got me and held me and there was nothing I could do about it because I was more scared of drowning than I was of being interfered with …
‘So it was just up and down in the water. But [the officers who ignored the abuse] were there that day that happened. They were just letting it go and there was supposed to be no contact … but it was happening all the time.’
After he was sexually abused in the swimming pool, ‘it was just continuous sort of thing. Same sort of thing. Violence and the threat of being … making sure you weren’t anywhere there was no one around … You had to watch yourself every day’.
Lawrence recalled that he was ‘threatened with sexual violence and that every day and stupid things that probably were never going to take place … They’d threaten they’d stick a pipe in you with barbed wire and pull the pipe out and all that … that was the sort of threat’.
Lawrence believes that ‘the best thing I can say to you lot is just don’t have kids in there with much of an age gap, where you get kids that are easily overpowering other kids’.
Before he left the detention centre, Lawrence was sent to a mental health facility for assessment. He felt threatened by older male patients there, but managed to avoid their sexual advances.
After he was released into his father’s care, Lawrence was supposed to go back to school, but instead, he went to work. He described his adult life as ‘up and down over the years … Married, divorced and bankrupt by 21 …’
Lawrence has significant mental health issues and has attempted to take his own life a number of times. ‘I’ve been a full substance abuser now me entire life. Alcoholic. Not heroin and shit. Just alcohol and pot.’
Lawrence told the Commissioner that he came forward to the Royal Commission after his daughter saw a program about child sexual abuse on television. ‘I just thought … I felt ripped off at the time … because I didn’t deserve to go into that place …
‘So I thought I’d just tell a story. I’m not too happy about what I went through ‘cause it’s sort of shaped me life a bit … Anyway, I survived. A lot of people haven’t.’