The first memory Lucian has of family is meeting his brother Barry when he was seven years old. Lucian had been placed in a London orphanage as a newborn in the late 1940s, and now he and Barry were being sent to Australia together as child migrants.
Lucian provided a written account detailing his experiences at the home in Victoria, and also spoke with the Royal Commission in person. ‘We were told we were coming to another country ... and they sent us here. They said oh yes, we’re going to have horses, you can ride horses and there’s better swings.’
The Presbyterian boys’ home was a ‘brutal, cold place ... and the building was a terrifying Victorian gothic mansion like the sort you see in horror movies. My life there was a horror movie.’
Lucian was frequently tortured by other boys. They tied him against a barbed wire fence, pelted him with rocks, threatened him with home-made spears, and one boy tried to cut his finger off with a knife.
The staff never intervened to stop these attacks, and ‘were violent, predatory monsters as well’.
When Lucian was shot in the leg with a rifle, he was not taken to a doctor. Staff dug out the bullet and sewed him up, and threatened him not to tell anyone.
Lucian was sexually abused over a long period of time by two members of staff. The first he only remembers as ‘Sneaky Pete’ – ‘he used to walk around, you wouldn’t hear him’. Sneaky Pete would take Lucian from his bed, to a room at the bottom of the stairs.
‘There he would sexually abuse me, usually make me masturbate him while he did dirty things to me. A few times he put his penis between my legs and ejaculated all over me. I always refused if he tried to put his penis in my mouth, even though I was scared of him.’
This abuse began shortly after Lucian arrived at the home, continuing at least a couple of times a month for around four years. Sneaky Pete sexually abused many of the other boys, too. ‘He’d come up nearly every night, come to the door, and call out somebody’s name and they had to go out.’
Sneaky Pete sometimes locked Lucian in the ‘dungeon’. This was a concrete bunker under the building, with bloodstains on the floor. There was a metal stake in the wall, and the boys were told prisoners had been hung there.
Lucian was locked in there many times, but the worst was when Sneaky Pete forgot about him. For three days he was trapped without food or water, until someone noticed his absence in church. When he was released, the superintendent, Thomas Parker, threatened him with violence if he told.
Lucian was scared of Parker, who was sexually abusing him too. ‘His style was different, always groping and touching me. He would pick me up if I fell over and hug me tight while he slipped his hand up my shorts.’
One time, Parker called Lucian into his television room (where boys were not usually allowed). ‘He immediately pulled down his trousers and exposed his erect penis, but I managed to get away from him.’
Another time, Parker molested Lucian when everyone was coming back from church in the truck. ‘I was sitting in the middle between Sneaky Pete and Parker – so they were both aware and partners in the assault.’
Lucian tried telling the priest from the church about the sexual abuse at the home.
‘I said what was going on and he said, “No, that couldn’t happen there.” And that was it ... He said “No, that’s a good home, nothing like that happens”.’
Suddenly, when Lucian was 12 years old, he was told his parents were in Australia and he was going to live with them. ‘I didn’t know them at all and it was frightening ... Life changed, not great but at least the sexual abuse stopped.’
This was an unhappy time. Lucian witnessed his father molesting his sisters. He told their mother, but she didn’t seem interested. When he confronted his father, he was thrown out of the house.
From the age of 13, Lucian made his own way in the world. He was illiterate when he left the home, only learning to read and write in his 50s.
His self-esteem has always been very low. Lucian was diagnosed with severe anxiety, and received an invalid pension for many years. He was married for a while, but this broke down.
Lucian has lived in many different places, but never felt he belonged anywhere. ‘I don’t trust people and feel safer alone, though I am lonely and my future feels uncertain.’ These days he lives in government housing, and can’t even have a pet for company. He wishes he could have a campervan instead, so he could be free to move around.
He recommended that there should be a national compensation fund for children affected by institutional sexual abuse. ‘The compensation should be substantial, not just a token payment of a few thousand dollars. They took my life and my future.’