‘My dad left when I was very young. I was still a few years old and my mum, she got a new boyfriend, my stepdad, and they used to be always like drinking all the time, alcoholics – my whole family’s alcoholics, and he’s like very abusive to me and my mother ... I used to run away all the time from home, get away from that, and just used to stay with other kids on the street, and we just used to do like stealing and stuff, you know.’
At 12, Merrin was sent to a juvenile detention centre in Queensland, and over the next few years through the mid-1990s, he would come and go from the centre after being picked up for stealing and various drug offences.
His initial experience in the centre included being strip searched and made to bend over and expose his buttocks. He was bashed by some boys and put in a section by himself. While he was there, one of the officers watched him in the shower and rubbed his body, telling him that he was comforting him. Merrin described being confused by the man being kind one minute and getting him to masturbate him the next, particularly because at that point in his life he’d had little experience of affection and didn’t know what was going on.
Later sent to another detention centre, Merrin recalled how he and other inmates were made to fight each other while the guards watched. On one occasion he was stabbed with a pair of scissors by the boy he was fighting.
‘I got the scar here. And I told the officer … and they just made like I had to go get stitches and yeah, I told the doctor and he just like didn’t worry about it, eh. He’s like … “If you try and press a complaint against that bloke he will make your life harder and then want to fight you all the time”, ‘cause you can’t go nowhere, like there’s no protection back then.’
Merrin said that he started to use heroin to keep memories of what he’d experienced away. He engaged in self-harming behaviours and as he got older the severity of his crimes increased. At one stage he’d been awarded $14,000 through victims of crime compensation but had then been deemed ineligible to receive the money. He was told by authorities that it had been distributed to victims of his own crimes.
Speaking to the Commissioner from jail, Merrin recounted that he’d recently reunited with several siblings. He was hoping that when he’d served his current sentence he could live with his brother who’d ‘had a different life’ and never been in trouble with the police.
‘[The abuse] really affected my life because I don’t really, like, trust people and I can’t really like – my relationships with girls, I don’t really open up to them and I’ve had a few relationships but they don’t last long, and it’s like [them] always saying that I can’t open up, but it’s like I don’t know what it’s like, I just want to be left alone. I isolate myself.’