‘I have to admit, when the government announced the Royal Commission … I was fortunate enough to find [my support person] and her organisation … In the past, there’s really been nobody for me to go to or speak about this … The Royal Commission has inspired me and I’m very, very proud to be here … for you to give me this time to speak.’
Miles spent most of his childhood at a non-government residential home in Queensland, for children with a broad range of disabilities. He went home on weekends. ‘I … never wanted to go back home. It was scary there. My mother and father fought a lot, physically … and being there was never a nice place to be. But … being at [the home] at the end was scary [too].’
In the early 1970s, when he was 12, Miles was sexually abused by one of the staff.
He had heard other boys whispering about being interfered with by the man, but when it happened to him, ‘the shock of it all was just mind-boggling … That’s another demon in my life I have to face … every day of my life’.
Reflecting on other boys who were abused Miles said, ‘We’re talking about children that couldn’t even move their arms or legs … They could say, “Stop”. They could say, “No”, but you know, they couldn’t run away.’
Miles thought that life at the home was, in general, quite good. ‘Matron … was very nice. This is the difficult part … It was him who I think destroyed my life … who raped me … I’m sorry for using that word. It took a long time for me to use that word, [but it is] … appropriate.’
Miles didn’t report the abuse to his family or anyone at the home. ‘For my whole life, I had nobody … Also, the loss of dignity, the shame of what had happened … especially at the age I was, it sort of just threw me. It just threw my life into another turmoil.’
Soon after the abuse occurred Miles was, without warning, told he was leaving the home. No one told him why, and he still doesn’t know if it was because the matron knew about the abuse, or whether he was always going to leave when he was 12.
The impacts of the abuse, and his sudden move back to live with his troubled family, were significant. ‘I feel my education was interrupted severely by it. I think my confidence to be led out into the world was shattered. I feel sometimes I was literally thrown to the dog. I mean, I knew nothing of the outside world … there was just so much going on that I didn’t understand …
‘I had to get away from reality. I had to escape. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol came into the picture then … I found out in the long run [this] wasn’t the answer.’ Having a child led to Miles giving up drugs and alcohol. He now takes medication for nightmares and depression, but would like one day to be free of it all.
He doesn’t like going outside and finds relationships difficult. About 20 years ago he enrolled in technical college to improve his education, but when a male teacher touched him on the arm one day, he walked out of class and didn’t go back.
‘After the abuse happened, I changed … I went into a shell, I was never the same … I can never get [the home] out of my head. It’s implanted there. I can take as much drugs as I want, [the home] will always be there … There was no one I could go to … Nobody wanted me … I still have troubles trusting people.’
Because he was institutionalised for so long, and felt so uncomfortable when he was ‘thrown to the wolves’ in the outside world, ‘there has been times where I honestly felt like committing a crime just so I could go to jail, just so I could have my own little space, something away from the world, because I still find it extremely scary out there’.
When Miles eventually reported the abuse to police in the mid-2000s, it took months for them to phone him back. When they did, they told him that there was no record of him ever being at the home. ‘I thought to myself, “Hey. You’re trying to tell me I wasn’t there” … It just got me angrier … I had no one to talk to … I just had to swallow more anger.’
After sharing his story with the Royal Commission, Miles intends to apply for compensation. ‘Compensation wasn’t on my mind at the beginning. It was revenge. Justice. That’s what I’m after the most. But I’m not going to get that. I don’t think I am.’
There are new people running the home now, so Miles doesn’t think he can ‘go and point fingers … but I think that people should be aware that [it] has a dark history … back then … in just about every institution, there was abuse going on, and they should be aware’.
Miles was grateful for the opportunity to speak with the Commission. ‘With anybody else, I don’t think I would be comfortable to discuss this, but because of the importance … I’m actually being heard and hopefully something will be done about this. I have no problem discussing it with you today, that’s for sure …
‘I think, the more insight you have in this the better … There’ll be a better outcome, I’m sure. I’m very confident … I’ve been watching it in the news and youse have been uncovering a lot of people … That’s good … I stand up and clap every time I see or hear a report that a paedophile has to face charges, and account …
‘Ever since the Royal Commission started … it really has put a smile on my face … and I’m sure it’s inspired a lot of other people to come out of the dark and say, “Hey”, and put their hand up and be counted’.