‘My childhood seemed all right – but when I look back at it, it was pretty shit.’
Les grew up in rural Queensland. His closest neighbour was about 15 kilometres away, and the closest town about 60 kilometres. ‘By the time I was six years old I’d probably been to town about four times.’
His parents’ relationship was violent. ‘I’d seen my mother being beat up from one end of the house to the other. Mum and Dad seemed to drink a lot of the time, and fighting.’ After his parents separated, he spent his time being shunted back and forth between their homes.
‘This was not a good time in my life. As a child I felt unclean and unloved.’
His mother’s new partner was physically and emotionally abusive towards Les and his siblings, and the older ones left home as soon as they could.
‘While at school, I used to eat out of the bins a lot … The best part about school was getting milk each day … I remember getting hit a lot by [my mother’s partner] … I hated that old cunt. This might sound bad, but I had a sigh of relief when he died. I had a fair bit of resentment towards him from the way he used to treat us.’
In the late 1970s, when he was 13 or 14, Les was involved in an accident that killed one of his friends. Although he was cleared of any blame, he felt shunned by everyone he knew. No one wanted him around. ‘I felt my entire life was falling to pieces … and then I found myself on a plane to Sydney, to a refuge … I felt lost. I was all alone in a place I didn’t know much about.’
Les found himself ‘living with other kids I guess like myself, but I didn’t ask. I didn’t talk about what happened to me … [but] after some time staying at the hostel, I was talking with a counsellor at [a local support service]’.
He told the counsellor that he didn’t want to stay at the hostel anymore because ‘one night I woke up and I found [someone] was sucking on my dick and this was my first sexual experience, which I didn’t like … I didn’t want to go back there, so once again I was on the move and I got taken to another refuge … all alone, frightened’.
Les began talking to another counsellor at the support service, and ‘after a couple of weeks, I started to open up to him and a couple of us from the home started to go back to his flat for weekend stays’.
He told the counsellor about what had happened at the first refuge. Not long after this, he woke up at the counsellor’s flat one morning and he ‘had his arms around me, playing with my dick, and him trying to stick his dick up my arse. I started to cry … and my body was shaking all over … but he kept on pushing … trying to stick his dick in my arse … I had tears running down my face and then he asked me did I like it’.
The next day the counsellor warned Les that if he said anything he would make sure that he was kicked out of the refuge. As soon as he could, he saved up enough money for a bus fare back to Queensland, and went to stay with one of his mother’s ex-boyfriends. ‘I guess this was the start of my drug taking and drinking at the age of around 15.’
By the time he was 17, Les had progressed from ‘smoking pot … to stronger drugs like speed, which I found to play a big role in the start of my criminal life. I found by being in the drug scene I felt part of something or someone’.
Because he had never felt loved or wanted during his childhood, when he started selling drugs, ‘I had people ringing me. I felt wanted … I could help other people out and this was all false friends, false love, but at least I felt loved and wanted even if it wasn’t true friends or real love’.
Les lost his partner and a lot of jobs because of drugs and drinking. ‘If I wasn’t trying to get on, I was trying to find the money to get on. It seemed all I had time for … Then I started getting into trouble, which then has led me to basically doing 15 years jail … I used to look forward to coming back to jail more than out there, because I felt somebody in jail.’
He told the Commissioner that he’s ‘kind of at a crossroads now’, because he has two adult children, who need his help, ‘so it’s time to pull my head in a little bit I guess, and do something for myself and my kids’.
Les was prompted to come forward to the Royal Commission after he spoke to a fellow inmate who had also been abused as a child and had contacted the Commission.
‘I’m kind of at that age now where I don’t really care what people think of what’s happened to me, but as a young kid I guess I put that right to the back of my head and I just never thought about it ever again … I guess it’s always in the back of your head, but you just don’t talk about it. I don’t feel it’s an embarrassing thing anymore … I don’t care what they think … I think it needs to be out there and things [have] gotta change.’