After being sexually abused by his adoptive father, Mr Miller, a Baptist Minister, over a period of a year, Louie ran away and lived on the streets in Adelaide at the age of 13. He was amazed to hear soon afterwards that another boy had been placed in the care of Miller and wondered why no one from South Australian welfare services had ever visited him or noticed that he’d run away.
Louie was interviewed about being adopted in the late 1970s when he was 12. When a social worker asked if that was something he wanted he said “Yes”, excited by the prospect, because up until then he’d lived with many different people. For three years, he’d been with the Minister and his wife.
Although the sexual abuse hadn’t started at the time of his adoption, looking back Louie could see that he was already being groomed.
‘He was always nice, always buying me things. It was actually very nice but … I think it started when he started buying me clothes, for example. I was still being fostered at this time by him, but he started buying me clothes. “Let me see what it looks like”, you know, “Put it on”, and then it came to the underpants, “Let me see what you look like”. And it meant absolutely nothing to me … well then it started into light touching and then rubbing and then it goes on’.
After the adoption Miller began getting into bed with Louie and masturbating until he ejaculated. He’d then pay Louie $10 or $20 to keep quiet about it.
Louie told several people about Miller’s behaviour, including two neighbours and a teacher at his school, however nothing came of his disclosures. One neighbour didn’t believe him and he thinks the other neighbour and teacher didn’t know what to do.
When the South Australian Mullighan Inquiry was set up, Louie came forward to tell his story. He was told the matter would be followed up by South Australia Police, and was disappointed that no action was taken against Miller. Police told him that Miller had produced a medical certificate advising that he was too unwell to speak. When Louie pursued the matter again recently, the police told him they’d been unable to find the neighbours and that Miller had now received legal advice not to speak to police. They also advised that the teacher had no memory of the disclosure.
After finding out that Miller was in a nursing home, Louie wrote a letter directing him to pay $25,000. He didn’t receive a response to the letter but said SA Police mentioned it when he reported the abuse to them, telling Louie he could have been charged with blackmail.
‘I said to the police, “Well, firstly it wasn’t a threat. I sincerely mean it. I strongly believe that he should give me $25,000, but if you believe that charges should be laid, because really they should be, why don’t you lay them?”. He doesn’t want to or the police don’t want to, because then he would have to go to court and he would have to defend, or I would have to defend myself. The judge would ask me, “Well why did you do this?” And I would respond all of this, and then he would have to defend himself.’
Throughout his life, Louie had lived on the street for periods of time, smoking marijuana and occasionally injecting speed or heroin. He said things were more stable now that he was sole custodian for one of his three daughters, a relationship he credited with helping him experience love. He applied for an ex-gratia payment under the South Australian Victims of Crime Act, and was awaiting the outcome of assessment of his application.
He said thinking about the abuse still made him angry. ‘So obviously it hasn’t left my inner being. I’m still quite angry about it. From putting himself to rest, he actually, I believe needs to know that what he did was not right. I was actually a gift to him. I wasn’t even his child, you know what I mean? But he strongly believes that everything he did was actually okay. It’s interesting … I don’t think it’ll change. He’s too old.’