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Lazlo's story

‘I was street smart from the dot. I grew up in pubs. I used to run around the city from [age] six, seven, eight.’

Lazlo was raised as an only child in Melbourne in the 1970s. His mother was a sex worker and Lazlo did not meet his father until he was school age, when his dad was released from prison. There was doubt about Lazlo’s parentage in his father’s mind.

‘He wouldn’t accept that I was his’, Lazlo told the Commissioner. ‘I was an abomination in his eyes. He used to spit at me. It was tortuous.’ Lazlo describes himself as ‘an emotional punching bag’ for his father.

‘He took pills and drank Bacardi every day.’

The marriage was deeply unhappy. Lazlo attended six different primary schools and six different high schools as the pattern repeated. Lazlo’s mother kept leaving his father and moving away; his father would reappear and ‘worm his way into her heart’.

Lazlo was sexually abused twice by strangers. Once when he was 10 he was in the city by himself wagging school when a man grabbed him and took him to a building site. He stripped Lazlo and began smacking him. The boy managed to pull free and sprint away. Another time Lazlo was abused in the laundry of the flats where he lived. On both occasions Lazlo told his father what had happened. His father did nothing.

Lazlo began stealing when he was very young. The theft of a car when he was 16 landed him in a state run youth detention centre in north Melbourne. The place was brutal.

‘[It was] pretty daunting. Even though I had a pretty rough kind of upbringing and that, I always had this pretty boy kind of a look. So I was picked on almost immediately.’

Lazlo was tormented so badly he was shifted to a different wing of the centre, where he was the oldest boy amongst youngsters. There he met a worker he remembers only as ‘Bruce’, who didn’t wear the centre uniform but seemed to be in charge. ‘He made it very clear that he ran the show. He was very hands on, very rough.’

‘He was very big. Kids were very scared of him.’

Bruce sexually abused Lazlo twice in an exercise room of the centre. Both incidents involved Lazlo being forced to perform oral sex.

Lazlo was held at the centre for four months. Upon release, aged 17, Lazlo saw his father for the last time. ‘He pulled a knife on me when I got out of [the youth centre] and kicked me out, so I was on the streets ever since. Mum sort of slipped me money when she could.’

Drugs became an important part of Lazlo’s life. ‘I’ve always depended on drugs. Mostly marijuana, I’ve never been big on heroin.’

‘I did self-medicate … I had a liking for amphetamines. But marijuana, I felt, was one thing that became normal – I could work, I could function.’

Lazlo has spent about half his adult life in prison on theft and burglary charges. Many times Lazlo has broken into houses and tried to imagine what real family life is like – making himself at home surrounded by other people’s things and the details of their daily lives.

‘I’ve done burglary as a way to connect … I’d watch “Neighbours” and I’d watch “Home and Away” and I’d take that on board as “family” … I used to look at the pictures and I used to envision being part of the household. I’d make something to eat. I’d spend some time there.’

‘I would steal, too.’ Lazlo lingered in homes for up to two hours. ‘I did that a lot more than I was ever caught.’

Lazlo has never reported his childhood abuse to the police as he does not trust them. ‘They are a corrupt entity in this state. It needs a royal commission of its own.’

He has never sought counselling outside of prison. Inside the jail system he believes counselling resources are stretched too thinly to cope with the need. He has been treated for drug induced schizophrenia. Lazlo has tried to keep a low profile while serving his time and has tried to keep busy in prison and cooperate. Now in his 40s, he is determined to make more of his life the next time he is released.

‘I’ve come full circle quite a few times. I’ve reinvented myself. Built a work history, which is very hard to do.’

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