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Melvin Leonard's story

Melvin grew up with his parents and siblings in the 1960s, staying intermittently with his grandparents. In his mid-teens he was placed under a child welfare order because of physical abuse in the family, and sent to live with relatives on a South Australian Aboriginal mission.

As soon as he got to the mission Melvin started hanging around people who drank heavily, and started doing the same. One of the men he drank with was Max Blayney, an elder in the community.

Blayney would frequently get Melvin ‘so drunk that I’d black out, couldn’t remember what happened to me. Over the years I realised – some of the memories have come back – that things did happen ... He had sex with me’. These rapes happened in various locations around the mission, and continued for several months until Blayney died.

Melvin never disclosed the abuse, but thinks one of his uncles may have suspected it as he had attempted to keep him away from Blayney.

As an adult Melvin has had problems with physical intimacy. He did not have a relationship with a woman until his mid-20s ‘’cause I thought sex and that was dirty’. This led to him being teased by his peers. ‘They used to say I was gay or shit like that.’

He met his current partner 15 years ago, and disclosed the abuse to her early on in their relationship as ‘I wanted her to understand me better’.

Melvin started committing criminal offences in his late teens, partly in order to get placed in boys’ homes as he felt safer there than in the community. He has spent a significant portion of his life in jail, and has ongoing issues with drug and alcohol misuse. In prison he has accessed some mental health support, and is on medication for anxiety and depression. ‘Me highs are high, and me lows are low.’

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