Monroe was born in northern Queensland in the 1960s to an Aboriginal mother and white father. As he described in a written statement to the Royal Commission, he was made a ward of the state around the age of nine. He doesn’t know why. It may have been because he’d been wagging school, or because of his alcoholic and verbally abusive father. However, his siblings were not taken away.
Monroe was first placed in a government-run orphanage nearby, where he was subjected to, and witnessed, physical abuse. He was also sexually abused on one occasion while in his dorm bed. He could not identify the adult perpetrator.
Along with others, Monroe escaped the orphanage but was soon found and returned.
After six to nine months, Monroe was transferred to an Anglican orphanage run by Father Bruce Edmonds and his wife. Father Edmonds used to whip him for little or no reason and, on one occasion, repeatedly held Monroe’s head underwater in a bucket.
It was ‘torture’, Monroe told the Commissioner. ‘I scrubbed grease pits, I was beaten … beaten to a point where he done nasty things. Yeah, it was horrible.’ Mrs Edmonds accused Monroe of being dirty because of his dark skin and made him scrub himself ‘clean’ until he was pink.
On another occasion Edmonds pummelled Monroe with boxing gloves and then raped him.
‘He only raped me once’, Monroe said in his statement. ‘There was no one else in authority who I felt I could turn to … so I kept it all to myself.’ The orphanage was also on an isolated property, Monroe told the Commissioner. ‘No one was in earshot … You could scream as hard as you like but nobody’s going to hear you.’
During a failed escape attempt, Monroe told the police about the abuse. ‘They laughed and said “Oh well, too bad. We’ve just got to take you back there”.’
When Monroe turned 16 he had the choice to stay and finish school or leave. He chose ‘freedom’. This lack of education has affected his entire life. He started off with ‘shit jobs’ and has had many of those since.
One of the greatest losses for Monroe was that he grew up in a place where there was ‘no love’. He had a childhood where he ‘never got a kiss, never got a hug, never got “You done well” or nothing’. He has struggled with this for a long time. He has even gone to parks to watch families and see their reactions to each other. He wanted to observe normality. Doing it though, he ‘felt like a bit of a weirdo’.
Monroe never had the chance to bond with his siblings. His brother died, and his two sisters are like strangers. For years he was estranged from his mother and father and, as an adult, had to track them down.
He never learned Aboriginal culture at the time that he should have – as a kid. As an adult he has tried to work out what tribe he belongs to.
Monroe ended up a loner. He ‘didn’t know how to function properly in the community … tried and failed’. He drank heavily and smoked a lot of marijuana. There were periods of depression and suicidal thoughts. Even seeing a bucket would be a trigger. Monroe did seek psychological help, here and there over the years, which he describes as ‘all quite a bit silly’.
About 10 years ago, he approached the Aboriginal Legal Aid service to seek compensation from the Anglican Church. He finally settled for a payment of $20,000. The Church ‘told me to go away and I had to sign this silly bit of paper saying that was it. They shut the door. “Get lost” type shit’.
Later, Monroe sought compensation through the Queensland Redress scheme. He can’t remember the exact amount he was paid, perhaps $30,000. ‘Whatever it was it was like another insult.’ Monroe described it as ‘enough to buy a couple of bandaids, and cover up your sore. That is so hard. It’s the hardest thing. People trying to make things right … but they’re also doing a lot of wrong’.
Monroe would also love the police force to admit fault, as well as individual officers. ‘They’ve let people down … They’ve hurt people … They’ve never been made accountable … Because, really, if they’d have been serious about it all … a lot of people wouldn’t be having this conversation with you today’, he told the Commissioner.
A few years ago Monroe suffered some serious medical problems. This was impetus for him to turn his life around. He stopped drinking and has been drug free for the past year. He has improved his employment situation by working with a boss that respects him. ‘Now I’ve done a lot of addressing of myself. I’m in a far better place that what I was.’
Given his childhood, Monroe knows he could have become ‘nasty and cruel’ but he’s ‘gone the other way’. He maintains contact with his children and grandchildren and, after years of estrangement, cares for his elderly mother.