Marlon's story

‘That first drive to the kids’ homes is a memorable one. And I was secretly hoping at that time that my life would’ve got better. That didn’t get better till I was 54. I had no idea what was ahead of me.’

Marlon’s family moved to Western Australia when he was a baby. For the first few years at least, things were good.

‘I was a very happy kid. I was a great student. I did really well', he said.

‘My mother was a single mother. In the early seventies no one would be your friend because you haven’t got a dad. So it was pretty tough back then.'

‘My mother was mentally ill, in some respects. She was always mentally ill. I don’t know what sort of mental illness it is, but she always associated herself with very important people … but didn’t seem to be able to care for her children.'

‘By the time I’m 10, the welfare authorities were keeping an eye on us … we weren’t fed very well so I would steal chips. And for that I went to children’s court and put on probation. Then I was truant, and for that I was put in state care.'

‘I’d say the anti-social behaviour was to do with the fact I had no guidance, no father, lived in 14 different houses … none of the general milestones that people actually had, like birthdays and things like that.'

‘Before I got to state care, and I tried to report this, I was being sexually assaulted by my mother’s friend. And I tried to tell my mother and she would not listen, and therefore I was a very confused and angry child.'

‘I remember I started wetting my bed again and stuff like that. I became really insecure and scared of adults. And my confidence just went downhill.'

‘And when I got to state care I was too afraid to say anything just in case I couldn’t get out. And that was my only hope, to get out. Strangely, at the same time, I was happy to go to the state care to get away from where I was.'

‘I was a 12 and 13-year-old, very angry little boy who no one cared about and no one listened to and was being sexually assaulted … so they just decided to put me in a hostel with a bunch of other angry people who were quite a bit older than me. So, in there, there was nothing but pornography everywhere. A lot of the boys and young men were having sex together.'

‘There was adults assaulting children in there, kids my age.'

‘It wasn’t care at all, it was just somewhere to put you.’

When Marlon was finally placed in a proper children’s home, there was more abuse. An older girl from a nearby mental health facility would sneak in and force the boys to do ‘sexual things’.

Marlon never told anyone. ‘There was no one to talk to anyway. There was no one to talk to.'

‘In the end I just basically hitchhiked down to Margaret River when I was 13 and a half, 14 and a half, and wound up sleeping on the beach there.'

‘I can go a little further and say I slept in my car for 25 years. And just travelled round the country over and over until I got very old and people would say, “Where’s your home?” I didn’t have a home.'

‘None of the jobs would work out. Not that I didn’t want them to, they just wouldn’t work out, because people would say “You’re nuts” or “You’re crazy” or “You’re sick” or “Something’s wrong with you”. And they don’t recognise that you’re just broken-hearted.’

Marlon became a heavy drinker, which led him to violence and jail. But, in his 40s, life improved. He got married and became a stepfather, and had two children of his own.

A few years later, he realised that his daughters were being sexually abused by their half-brother. But when Marlon went to the authorities, he wasn’t believed.

‘They basically said, “Look, you’ve been through state care, you’ve been assaulted as a child, we don’t think you’re mentally well, we think you’re making this up”.

‘All I wanted to do was protect the kids.’

After a long battle in the Family Court, where he was refused legal aid, Marlon was able to prove his case. ‘I was just telling the truth. And it seemed to me, whenever I told the truth in my lifetime, no-one believes you.’

Marlon came to the Royal Commission because his daughters’ case was a disturbing sign that things haven’t improved. ‘I suppose I’m here because I’m a little bit angry about the fact that the system didn’t protect them either.'

‘I feel that the harm coming to children now is through the federal courts, and still the same old people who are in the child protection agencies. And given what I’ve just seen, I think you’ll have an epidemic of children falling behind in the future.’

From personal experience, Marlon also believes that abused children feel much safer if they can talk to someone they know, rather than a stranger from a welfare agency. ‘If you’re able to get their trust, they’ll open up to you.’

When he spoke to the Commissioner, Marlon was hopeful. ‘Look, I’m not so broken-hearted now. I’ve got two beautiful daughters who love me. And I’ve got a constant reminder every day … I’ve got the family I never had and I’ve got something to live for.’

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