‘All I wanted was to be a cadet. [The abuse] wrecked my navy career.’
Linc grew up in a small family in a suburb of Sydney during the 1960s. He was an average student but he loved learning.
When he was 13, he joined the navy cadets with his school friends, hoping to turn it into a career. As his friends were older, they were accepted into the navy earlier than him. He ‘missed out by six months’ and waited to apply as soon as he could and, when he was 15, he finished high school and joined the navy. He discovered that his friends were at the same base, but was disappointed that they had different quarters.
The first couple of months were ‘fine’. Linc and the other cadets attended school in the morning and then did ‘navy things’ on weekends and afternoons. The other cadets were easy to get along with and Linc was making friends. However, that changed fairly quickly.
Linc was subjected to bastardisation – physical assaults by senior cadets. He recalls being ‘hit in the face’ with pillow slips filled with cans, and was subjected to ‘scrubbing’. Senior cadets held him down and rubbed Dencorub onto his genitals, which caused a burning sensation.
Unable to take this abuse, Linc reported it to Petty Officer Petkovic. Petkovic told Linc that he would look into it and left it for a couple of days. One afternoon, Petkovic called Linc to his bunker and attacked him for his complaint. Petkovic threw him around the room and burnt him with cigarettes. He then held him down and raped him. When he finished, he pushed Linc out of the room.
Linc couldn’t tell anyone about the abuse. He explained that Petkovic was the man in charge and that there was ‘no one above him’. Linc carefully avoided Petkovic after the abuse had occurred. Shortly after, Linc ‘passed out’ from the class and moved on to the next course.
He started to act out after that. He couldn’t take orders from the officers in charge and found it difficult to stay focused. He was constantly getting into trouble, even when he was away for an extended period of time.
‘I just didn’t want to be there anymore.’
In the late 1970s when he was 16, Linc was supposed to be ‘on watch duty’ during the night. He was accused of falling asleep on the job and was sent to a military prison for several months. He was ‘kicked out’ of the navy when he was 18.
Throughout his teens and adulthood, Linc has abused drugs. He has been in and out of jail since he was 18. He told the Commissioner the longest period he has spent out of jail was 10 months. He said he doesn’t ‘fit’ in the outside world and believes he belongs in jail.
‘It’s hard on the outside. When I get out I struggle out there from day one.’
During stints on the outside, Linc managed to start a family and he is still in regular contact with his children. He loves maintaining his relationships with his family. Recently, he has been engaged with a counsellor in custody who has helped him with his problems and he has now been sober for several months.
He finds it difficult to accept how his life turned out. He said he spends a lot of time ‘thinking of what could have been’. He’s missed out on some of his children’s life events, and looks forward to ‘having a plan’ when he gets out of jail.
He has never reported the men who abused him to the police, as he said he experiences ‘bad vibes’ with police. He has never sought compensation from the navy, but would like to. He said he would like to see independent welfare checks for young recruits in the Defence Force in the future. That way, the kids have an opportunity to report inappropriate behaviours to someone not involved with the armed services.