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Loyd Desmond's story

In the early 1960s, when Loyd was two years old, his parents separated and he was placed in a children’s home in New South Wales run by the Methodist Church.

‘About a year after I was in there a lady that worked there started picking me up and comforting me by breastfeeding me’, Loyd told the Commissioner. ‘I don’t know if it was wrong or not, but I got to thinking she was like a mother.’

The breastfeeding continued until Loyd was about six years old, ‘as long as I can remember being there’, and was always done in private. Loyd recalls being confused and embarrassed by the breastfeeding at the time. The memories are very strong and clear, half a century later, and Loyd is just as confused.

‘I don’t know. I guess she was trying to care for me when I was upset. I really don’t want to get her into trouble if that’s what she was trying to do.’

Physical abuse was also common in the home, under the guise of discipline. ‘Stuff happened in there, whacking you on the arse with paddles and stuff like that. I used to hide my brother under the bed.’ Loyd hoped he could take a beating for both of them.

Loyd’s life has been difficult, and he has grappled with a sense of abandonment. He had several good years when he was fostered to a loving couple, the Dixons. But when he was in his early teens, Loyd had a visit from his father. His dad, who had been largely absent from his life, took him to an amusement park for the day. By that evening Loyd had decided he wanted to live with his father.

His foster parents were against the idea, but his father was saying he wanted him back and Loyd was adamant. The Child Welfare Department presented him with a document to sign. Loyd’s happy time with the Dixons came to an end and he was taken home by his father.

‘I only wish the welfare had done a follow up on how I was coping six months later. I wasn’t.’

His father sent Loyd to live with his step-grandmother. ‘If Dad wanted me back why did he have to send me over to some people I didn’t even bloody know at all?’ In her care Loyd was sexually abused by his step-uncle, who would come to his bed at night. ‘After he done that I rolled out the window. My bed was right near the window so I just rolled out the window and never come back.’

Loyd spent some time living on the streets, and also moved back in with his father, who beat him. Loyd’s behaviour deteriorated and he started to get into trouble. ‘I got expelled from both schools Dad put me in for behaviour I’d never showed before … as soon as Dad started whacking me around I got in a lot of trouble.’ Loyd was sent to a number of different state- run homes for boys. By 17 he had been sent to an adult jail.

Loyd tried to disclose the abuse in his teens but was not believed. More recently he has told a psychologist. Loyd has not made a police report and has never sought compensation. He has struggled throughout his life with a lack of education, PTSD, dysfunctional family relationships and social isolation. He has been addicted to various substances, but has been ‘clean of all that for years now. Other than smoking’.

Loyd is glad the large children’s homes have all closed and hopes the Royal Commission will help build a regulatory framework to protect kids. ‘I think you have to be 18 these days to do anything. Not sign your life away when you’re [a kid], when you got a toffee apple and friggin’ fairy floss at Luna Park, just because of that. Because you loved your dad. Or you thought you did.’

Loyd sees hope for troubled children in a well-run foster care system. He still misses Mr and Mrs Dixon, who he was never allowed to contact as he grew older. ‘The main thing I like to think about is what would my life be like if I’d stayed with my foster parents. Because they were the best people I ever knew.’

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