Matt Charles's story

‘I went into [the boys’ home] addicted to computer games and I come out addicted to drugs. Still am. I smoke marijuana every day, I can’t eat, sleep, function without it. I had a problem with alcohol … I’m still drunk every week, but I don’t get into trouble anymore. I was in and out of jail. Life is getting good now, but it’s still shit.’

When he was growing up in Queensland in the 1980s, he ‘wasn’t a bad kid’ but his single mother just couldn’t handle him. If he had a problem Matt would talk to his doctor – his only father figure.

Matt started stealing small amounts of loose change from caravans in the caravan park where he and his mother lived, in order to pay for his addiction to arcade games. When he started to get into more trouble, his doctor told his mother that he’d ‘heard of this wonderful place’, a boys’ home, run by the De La Salle Brothers. Matt went to the home when he was 13, and stayed four years.

‘The very first day I was there … about six or seven boys give me a belting and it just continued … I was like the smallest boy in [the boys’ home].’

Matt told the Commissioner, ‘There were good parts about it. I ended up going to the snow. Went there twice. That was probably the only good thing about it. Got molested every week, by the boys and the Brothers’. Matt was physically and sexually abused by at least four of the Brothers at the home.

Matt ran away four times, but his mother kept taking him back. No one asked him why he was running away. ‘Just thought I was a naughty boy.’

Before Matt went to the boys’ home he was a top student, but once he went to the institution he ‘slacked off’. When he left the home at 17, he went back to school, ‘to be back round girls. I’d never had a girlfriend in my life. I put that to [the boys’ home]. I could’ve married … Every girl in the school wanted to be with me. I was a nice boy. I still am. But I can’t hold a girlfriend … I don’t know how, or what to do’.

It distresses Matt that he doesn’t have a family. ‘I don’t have kids, I don’t have any ex-girlfriends. I don’t have any ex-wives … I was living on the street till two years ago.’

Matt received a compensation payment for the abuse he experienced, and after the lawyers took their share, ‘I ended up buying myself a nice motor home … and that’s pretty much all I got, but that’s got me off the street’.

His time at the boys’ home affected Matt’s job prospects. When he came out of the home he wanted to be a chef or a vet, but he can’t work with male bosses. ‘I don’t like males telling me what to do. I don’t like authority. I don’t like lawyers … All I do is … I don’t want to smoke me drugs, but that’s all I got.’

Matt told the Commissioner that he has tried counselling but doesn’t like it, because he doesn’t want to talk about the abuse. ‘I’m quite fine. If I’m not talking about it, I don’t think about it … It’s just … [since] I got the phone call from you people again, it’s just been brought up again and I just want it over.’

When Matt received an apology from the De La Salle Brothers, he thought ‘it was a joke. It’s a bit late for an apology. They can’t change nothing. They can’t fix my life. They give you some money. That doesn’t help’.

If it wasn’t for his mother, Matt believes ‘I would have killed myself a long time ago’. His mother is now aware of the abuse and ‘keeps saying to me, “I thought I was doing the right thing” … You’d think your kids are safe with a priest’.

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