‘My grandmother, my nan, was always there for me … but when my nan died a part of me died and that’s when I went off track.’
Max was 13 years old when he first landed in a boys’ home.
‘I was young and innocent … I went to the homes because I had no one to look after me, more or less ... I was only 13 and … they [other residents] were all real big boys compared to us … they were all older, 16 and 17 … big boys. Scary … you’re just on your toes 24/7. There was fights every day … it just wasn’t normal … [there was] a lot of stuff going on there.’
Max wound up in three different Queensland government boys’ homes from the late 1980s. In the first two, he found physical abuse was condoned by the management and staff. When he was at the third one, a regional youth centre, he was sexually abused by staff.
‘Worst [place] … in my whole life. All these jails … all the hardest jails I’ve been in … [that] home was the worst for my head … for me, inside of me, it was the worst ever than everything put together … The mind games they played and the way things happened there … It was terrible.
‘Every day was so long and so horrible. Sometimes you just didn’t feel like carrying on but you had to … you’re only young and you’ve got to grow up … It was very scary.’
Max spent three years in the home.
‘It didn’t make me any better at all. It made me … way worse, a hundred times worse. My attitude was “eff”, and “Who gives an eff?” … I was abused and bashed around. I was only a little kid getting bashed around. I got it hard … I just thought I had to be tough and fight back.’
When Max left the home at 17 he was soon caught up in the adult correctional system.
‘After doing … nearly three years in there … in and out, but I was mainly in, and just things what happened to me [in there] and how I left there – it wasn’t good … When I turned 17, I done a robbery straight away … And I got done for that.’
Max was sent to adult prison, the first jail sentence of many.
‘My attitude from the home made me like that … I didn’t care no more. And then I just kept going hard then, through jails … In the last 30 years I’ve been in 21 different institutions … I’ve been to the good ones and the bad ones … I can tell you what, there’s … no good in any of them really. It’s still a waste of life and waste of time and you get nowhere and your attitude just gets worse.’
Max had never told anyone about his sexual abuse until he told the Commissioner.
‘I didn’t want no one to know. It was something I felt like I couldn’t say to anyone … I just wanted to keep it dark and quiet in my life.’
He has significant trust issues and keeps to himself.
‘It’s not even worth going to anyone really … I can’t trust anyone. I just keep everything to myself. Bottled in … Education keeps me going.’
In jail, Max has engaged with the education programs on offer and has completed his Year 10 certificate.
‘Every day I got education. Last time I was here I done it for a year and a half … I bettered myself in that way in here … I’m doing that [studying] and just keeping my head good [with] that and I stay away from everything and everyone. That’s the way I am … because I can’t trust no one.’
Max also has a problem with alcohol which often leads him back to prison. He hasn’t ever spoken to a counsellor about his abuse or received therapy for his trauma.
‘No. I’ve only [had] my own therapy, my own help. I’ve never even had a massage in my life. I’ve never been to anything, done anything … in life … I haven’t had a spa … all [I’ve] been is institutionalised.’
His faith has assisted him over the years he has spent in prison.
‘I’m with the Lord … I’m deep down with the Lord … I’ve been deep with him for … years now.’
Max is now keen to pursue compensation from the Queensland government and to begin some trauma-informed counselling.
‘I was just too frightened to say anything. All my life I would not say anything to anybody, not even the girls I loved … I was too scared to let it out.
‘I’m starting to say something about it … Maybe I might feel a bit better now that I have told someone.’