‘The more I think about it, the more I realise there was always a weirdness about the place.’
Lenard told the Commissioner he was sent to a residential youth shelter in the early 1980s in Adelaide because he’d been wagging high school.
‘They used to take us out on these day trips where we used to go to the beach where we were all naked, probably eight children, boys and girls naked. They used to take pictures of us but they sort of made it seem normal.
'They also tried to have this atmosphere where it was like a privilege for anyone like myself to be there as well. At the time I didn’t really think of it like that but when I look back at it, that’s the sort of feeling I got.’
Lenard said the culture of the centre was that there were very few boundaries around boys and girls kissing and touching each other.
‘There would be camps as well. That was where the incident happened with myself, where these other people that were outside of the centre were with the teachers that were there. They brought alcohol along. That was where I had an incident with this lady who performed a sexual act on me.’
He was about 14 at the time and said he thought there was more than one child like himself who had been involved in something on the camps. He believes he would have reported the incident if there had been a safe place to do so.
‘I think even back then there was this feeling of lying, people would say “You’re a liar”. You felt as if you were going for attention. When I tried to explain to my friends about having sex with an older lady, they all probably would have thought that was an okay sort of thing – but it didn’t feel okay.’
Lenard left the centre at about age 15 and went to work. However at 17 he was charged with murder.
‘I was automatically transferred into a place that’s called the block. It was like their version of like a jail within the youth detention place … There was an officer there that done a sexual act to me. He was very, very violent.’
He told his family about the assault but nothing was done about it. He did not report the incident to the police because of the ‘jail mentality’ of not dobbing people in.
He said the abuse had had an impact on him as an adult.
‘For years and years I’ve played it over in my head, not being able to really express it because you’re basically looked upon as a weak person.
‘It’s definitely wrecked relationships. I don’t seem to be able to have a relationship for very long. When I go to sleep I often wake up with a sharp jolting feeling going through my body.’
He suffers from stress-related asthma and finds it very difficult to talk about what happened. ‘Even talking about it now I’m getting this cramping sensation inside my guts. I’m an alcoholic as well.’
Lenard is currently serving a jail term and believes it is very important that children and adults are treated differently when sent to jail. After his conviction for murder he was transferred as a juvenile into an adult jail. ‘I just think that’s totally wrong.’
He said institutions must be organised better to protect children and for a system to actually work when a complaint is made.
‘Who was there when I was crying in a locked room? Where was the level of these other people that were in charge of these institutions? Where were all these people? It was almost designed so that these children didn’t get any help.’