Neglected and malnourished, Marc was taken from his parents when he was four months old and made a ward of the state. He grew up in various state-run care homes in Melbourne in the 1970s. Marc told the Commissioner that some of the best times were when he spent weekends and holidays with the friendly and caring Hawke family. Some of the worst times were when was sent to visit his parents.
During one such visit Marc was sexually assaulted by a ‘family friend’ named Bill Dawson. Marc said he was about nine years old at the time when ‘this bloke asked my sister to come into the backyard with him and she wouldn’t. And then he asked my brother, and he was younger, and he wouldn’t. And I said I would, to protect them, basically’.
Dawson pulled his own pants down, and then pulled Marc’s pants down. He then ‘started whatever he was going to do’ but was interrupted when Marc’s screams brought his mother running into the yard. Dawson took off. Marc’s mother then rang the police who caught Dawson and charged him.
Marc gave a statement to police and then went back to live at the children’s home. Weeks later he was visiting his parents’ place for the holidays and Dawson dropped by. Marc remembered, ‘I started screaming, and Mum slapped me across the face and told me to come into the bedroom and said, “He come last night, he’s upset, he’s really sorry, he didn’t mean to do it.”’
Marc soon learned that his parents had had a sudden change of heart about Dawson. In the lead up to the trial they got Marc to retract his police statement. Marc was an emotional wreck by the time he walked into court. When he saw Dawson there, watching him, he cried so much that he couldn’t swear on the Bible. The case fell apart and Dawson walked away free. Sometime later Marc discovered that his parents had been bribed by Dawson to sabotage the case.
Marc spent the next few years shifting between his parents’ place and various children’s homes. Todd Page was a staff member who worked at one of the homes. When Marc was about 14, Todd started to take a special interest in him.
‘He’d take me out to try and teach me to drive. He did that once, or whatever, but he was grooming me and I didn’t realise. And I’ve gone round to his place and I was allowed to smoke as much as I liked. But what he did, he treated me like a man. I felt like I was getting one-on-one support.’
Soon Page started telling Marc about his sexual exploits, including how he and other male staff members had sex together. This made Marc wary of the other staff members. As a result, when Page started sexually abusing him, Marc felt there was no one he could talk to.
The abuse continued for several months until Marc moved to another home. A short while later he met his third abuser, a man named Walker. The Walkers lived up the street from Marc’s parents. When he was about 15 or 16, Marc dropped round to visit them a few times during the Christmas holidays. After that, Walker and his wife contacted welfare and organised for Marc and his brother to visit their home on a regular basis.
‘They were letting us drink and smoke cigarettes. I believe to this day that that’s probably the only reason I kept going there, was for the alcohol. To block everything out, no doubt. And he had pornographic videotapes there and we were allowed to watch them.’
Marc said he can’t remember exactly how it happened but after a few visits Walker started to take him and his brother out to the backyard where he abused them.
Marc didn’t tell anyone what was happening until the manager of one of the homes suggested that he might like to go live with Walker. Marc didn’t want that to happen so he told the manager what Walker had been doing. He also disclosed the abuse to his dad who then contacted police.
An investigation began but his brother denied everything and the manager of the home made a statement calling Marc a liar and ‘manipulator’. The case was dropped.
Meanwhile, Marc was struggling to cope with the emotional trauma caused by the abuse. He felt confused about his sexual identity and victimised by his family.
‘I used to cop from my family that I was gay. Nanna used to put toilet paper round the toilet seat so that they didn’t catch anything from me and all that sort of stuff.’
Over the years Marc has also struggled with mental illness and thoughts of suicide. But he said that the things he learned from the Hawke family have helped him to overcome these challenges.
‘I had psychosis and depression and nearly lost my life with it in 1998, 99. I’ve been on anti-psychotic medication and depression tablets since that. I went to hang myself from a tree but I thought they [the Hawkes] were watching me from the sky. So that’s how close I come. So I took medication. Basically I knew something was wrong and got on with it.’