Lewis Paul's story

Lewis was born in the late 1950s and raised by his grandmother, alongside his siblings and cousins. They moved a lot around regional Victoria, and relied on charities for food and clothing. His grandmother received a pension but this was paid to a trustee who never gave her any payments, so she did not have any money to care for them.

Eventually the charities she was constantly going to ‘got sick of it, so to speak, and they wouldn’t help anymore’ and contacted authorities. When Lewis was six years old the children were removed and made wards of the state. After a short while Lewis and his sister were separated from their brother and placed in an Anglican children’s home in suburban Melbourne.

Lewis was 10 when he joined some other boys on a camp run by the head of the home, Mr McWilliams. Arriving at the camp the boys were taken down to the creek, and told to take off their clothes so they could go swimming. McWilliams said it was natural, and Lewis agreed to it as he was a young boy and did what he was told.

Later that evening McWilliams told one of the other boys to come and sleep with him upstairs. The next morning Lewis got up and McWilliams came downstairs wearing only an apron – the boys could see his bare buttocks and thought it very strange.

When the boys returned to the home there was an in-house investigation and Lewis reported what had taken place at the camp. McWilliams left the home shortly after this. Looking back now he realises that McWilliams was grooming the boys.

Being removed from his family at a young age had a big impact on Lewis as an Aboriginal man. Although he later reconnected with his people he does not feel totally accepted as he did not spend his early years with them. He also regrets not having any photographs from his childhood, but only his welfare file. Reading his records was useful as it helped him realise that it was not his family’s fault that he was removed from them.

His experiences growing up significantly affected his adult life. ‘It really did affect me, because I started to drink quite heavily. Then that impacted on my relationships.’ He worried about having kids, and if they would go through the same things he did.

Around five years ago Lewis gave up drinking alcohol and this changed his life. ‘In the end I just said, look this is not doing me any good, causing me heartache and all that type of stuff. So I went cold turkey on it. Don’t want, don’t need it ... Best move I ever done I think, ‘cause it ruins your family life, and work.’ He is now working with young Aboriginal people as a mentor – ‘we try to give them healing from the inside’.

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