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Lou Nathan's story

‘I suppose the best way for me to do it is to start off by saying when I was younger my mum and dad split up. Me and my sister who’s my closest sibling, we used to run away all the time, trying to find our father who was in Brisbane …

‘We used to think that if we got to Brisbane we’d be able to find him, and we’d be always jumping on trains to run away to go and see him. We’d always get picked up on the trains and after a few times we ended up in a court.’

In the late 1970s Lou, then aged eight and his sister Beth, a year older, were made state wards.

They were sent to a juvenile justice centre for one night to await transport the following day to a children’s home in Sydney. In their section of the centre there was only one staff member on duty.

‘That’s where something happened to me’, Lou said. ‘It happened to my sister, but my sister, she passed away and I can’t really say anything about her. But I just remember the night at [the centre]. We were told to undress and I was told to do things that I didn’t like doing, and they were sexual things with an older adult, with a male adult, one of the staff ...

‘Where we were, we were like secluded from everyone else and we were just in these rooms that had wire fences around the dormitory sort of thing, but we were the only ones there with this old man that was supposed to be looking after us. But he didn’t look after us. He was just a dirty old man and basically made me do things that basically haunted me for most of my life.

‘I spent most of the rest of my life in and out of institutions. I started using drugs at a young age and I spent 20 years of my adult life in jail. It wasn’t until I was 40 that I was like, why am I doing this? Why am I living this life? And decided that I’d had enough of it. I got out … and I’m not going back to jail. But a lot of times I ask myself, why did I go that way, you know. I don’t know whether it was because of what happened back then, I don’t know.’

Lou never reported the abuse, either when he was a child or subsequently, but he thought he might now speak to police and see if any records of the staff member existed.

‘I done a lot of things wrong in my life and I paid for them by going to jail and wasting my whole life, you know. I don’t even know if he got caught for any of the things that he done. I never really talked to anyone about it. It was a thing just between me and my sister. The only time I really started talking about it was when I got in touch with you.

‘I opened up to my partner and she’s very, very supportive, and she encouraged me to come and just tell you what happened.’

Years earlier, Lou had spoken to Beth about the night they’d spent at the juvenile justice centre. ‘I told her that something happened to me there and she basically just give me a hug and just let me know that I wasn’t the only one. We never really went into detail about it.’

Part of Lou’s reason for coming to the Commission was to speak on behalf of Beth who ‘never got a chance to come in here’.

Only in recent years had it occurred to Lou that he could ‘have a good life’.

‘I could have achieved a lot in my life if I didn’t waste so many years, and like I said, it wasn’t until just before I turned 40 that something just went click and I just decided to stop blaming the system and just decided to get on with my life.’

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