Lukas grew up in a regional New South Wales town in the 1970s. His parents separated early on and Lukas and his sister stayed in the care of their mother. Some tough times followed as she did her best to support the family. ‘She’d do whatever she could. She’d clean houses, she’d work in the abattoir boning meat – she’d do whatever she could.’
Eventually she settled into a relationship with a new partner. He was a big man, Lukas recalled. ‘Not fat, but stocky.’ He was very violent towards Lukas and his sister.
‘He ended up bashing me like a man – every time he got drunk and that, I’d just cop it. I walked in on him molesting my sister and that … I told me mum and she wouldn’t believe me’, Lukas said.
‘She just didn’t have the heart to get out of the relationship, and that happened for four or five years.’
Lukas moved about from primary school to primary school, and lasted only about a month at high school before he dropped out altogether. Later, doctors suggested to him that the bashings he’d had from his stepfather had caused brain damage. He still has scars on his face from the injuries he suffered then.
‘Up until I was 10, they were the best years of my life’, he said. ‘After that, it was just … ’
When Lukas was 13, his stepfather took him to a refuge and left him there. ‘He wanted me out of the house.’ Lukas started running away, and before long ended up in a juvenile justice facility. One thing led to another pretty quickly. He ended up living on the streets with other teenagers.
‘I was drinking, stealing liquor, stealing food.’ He saw one of the teenagers he was with violently attack someone. ‘When that happened I thought, "If I don’t do what these people tell me, they’ll do that to me".’
As a 14-year-old, Lukas was one of a group of several teenagers who committed a brutal crime. He was sent first to a remand centre, then when he was 18 to an adult correctional centre. He has been in prison ever since.
Soon after arriving at the remand centre, Lukas was put on kitchen duties. He found himself working alongside the chef, Tony Corvalis. Before long, Corvalis started talking to Lukas about bodybuilding, and getting him to take his shirt off. They’d share a beer, and wrestle around. Eventually, Corvalis began sexually abusing Lukas.
‘He was grooming me and things like that, and wanting me to do rude things with him – and it got pretty rude. Like anal sex and things like that. He’d bring in sex toys like big dildos and things’, Lukas told the Commissioner. ‘When it happened it happened for a fair while, like for six months almost every day, and then it wound down to once a week or something like that … It started probably when I was 15 and went until I was probably 16 and a half.’
At the time, Lukas didn’t recognise this experience as abuse. He thought the way Corvalis treated him was ‘excellent’, he said. ‘Never laid a hand on me … It was consensual. He made me feel like I was like a son to him.’ Now, he sees it differently.
‘I don’t have nightmares. Whether that’s because of prison and just being dulled – because prison makes you dull, it really does. It takes off all the sharp edges to you, you know. But the thing is, I look back with such regret. Like it’s a sigh, every time I think about it, it’s a sigh. I’m a complete heterosexual, you know what I mean, and how on earth I did that … I feel dirty when I think of it.’
Lukas disclosed the abuse to a police psychiatrist in his 20s but has not had access to ongoing or regular sessions. ‘We get nothing in this place’, he said. He had not reported it to police, but intended to. ‘If I knew he was out there doing it to other children, I would 100 per cent stand up and say something.’
He has been sustained during his time in jail by a belief in God. He runs several Bible study groups, and has converted about 100 people to Christianity. ‘I read my Bible every day and I’m 100 per cent a Christian, you know ... I know the New Testament off by heart pretty much.’
He is regularly visited in jail by the man who converted him, when he was in his late teens. ‘He showed that it doesn’t matter how far down you’ve gone, people are human beings and you can pick ‘em up out of any pit … If I don’t get out [of jail] in this life I know that I’m going to go to heaven and they can’t take that off me, and I look forward to that.’