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Martin Douglas's story

‘Dad was an alcoholic and he was giving up drinking. I don’t remember bad things. I don’t know whether it was or it wasn’t. I don’t know, but apparently, the paperwork I had from [the] boys’ home said Mum and Dad were going to divorce, and the government took us and put us in the home.’

Martin told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t think they even told us nothing. They just like shipped us out and then shipped us off to this home. Shipped us around to different places before they actually took us there … They probably told my mother … We were there for a year. I know that because I had paperwork’.

Martin’s parents eventually reconciled when his father gave up drinking, but Martin and his brothers went to a Protestant boys’ home in Sydney in the early 1970s, before being returned to their care. During this time, Martin was sexually abused by the groundsman at the home. Martin believes his brothers were also abused by the man.

The home ‘wasn’t real good and I suppose the younger you are, you don’t realise what’s going on but … as years go by, things happen and you know, things probably shouldn’t happen’.

Staff at the home were cruel. The women who ran it would beat the boys if they got their shoes dirty. If they wet the bed, the women would rub their noses in it. ‘There was a bit of everything.’

Martin recalled being sent to stay with a family at Christmas. ‘They gave me presents and because I wet the bed they sent me back early and when I went back early, they took the presents off me and I was by myself in a big dormitory with nobody, you know. Eight years old, nine years old, mate. That’s … I wouldn’t do it to a dog. Let alone people.’

Martin can’t remember much about the sexual abuse, which occurred when he was about eight or nine, ‘but apparently it was happening and so really, whether I knew it was abuse or I didn’t know it was abuse, you know what I mean? By the time I was 13, I was abused by my brother’.

When Martin’s older brother was 17, he re-enacted the sexual abuse all the siblings experienced at the home. Martin believes that this affected him more than the abuse at the home.

‘When you’re 13 I think it affects you more, to know what’s happened … Probably when you’re younger, you don’t know what’s going on, whether it’s right or wrong, but when you’re older and your brother does what he done, and he probably went to more extreme than the other one …

‘I don’t trust him now. I don’t trust him then. He’s probably been scarred through that mob. I don’t know. Some people, you just can’t teach an old dog new tricks … I can’t say nothing to my mother. [She] thinks he’s the ant’s pants, but he’s not.’

One of Martin’s other brothers has spoken of his dislike of their elder brother. ‘[He] used to say, “He’s dirty. He’s filthy”. Like, he wouldn’t trust kids near him.’ So Martin thinks his older brother may have abused this brother too.

‘Who knows why people do what they do. I can tell you now, as long as my heart points to the ground, I’ll never touch a kid. I will never abuse a kid and if I was present and it happened, I’d deal with it there and then, you know what I mean?’

Martin doesn’t understand how those who have been sexually abused as children can go on to be abusers and say, ‘Oh, it’s because it happened to me when I was a kid’. He commented, ‘That’s no excuse, mate. If you know how it felt to you, why do you want to pass it on to somebody else?’

Martin didn’t get much of an education, but he has worked all his adult life in the same trade as his father and other members of his family, and successfully raised his children as a single father when his wife left him.

Martin told the Commissioner, ‘I used to smoke weed. I smoked weed from probably the age of 17, for 25 years. I smoked heaps of weed … I don’t know like if I was smoking that to cover up the past or what. As soon as someone introduced me to that I never looked back. I never took up drinking because I seen what it done to my dad and for respect for my father I didn’t drink’.

Martin gave up smoking marijuana eight years ago. After a failed relationship he began to get depressed and thought he was smoking too much, ‘and I said, “Nah, got to give it up”. I rang Lifeline and decided that was it and I went from smoking an ounce a week to nothing overnight’.

When Martin decided to give up marijuana, he saw a counsellor. Although he didn’t tell her about the sexual abuse in the home, he spoke about other issues and found when he saw her, ‘you spend half an hour crying but you get it out. You get it off your chest. That’s it. She was good, the one I was with, but she went away … She was alright’.

Martin observed, ‘There’s a lot of kids probably in my position now, little ones. Got drunken and drugged families. There’s a lot of bad drugs out there now and that tears families apart and these kids have got to go somewhere. You [shouldn’t] have to go to institutions and be treated like convicts and criminals. They’ve done nothing wrong. Just got brought into the wrong place in the wrong time …

‘It’s a good thing now that people are looking at it and are going to do something about it … now that this is out in the open, hopefully there’s not going to be so much of it.’

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