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Morris's story

After becoming a ward of the state of Victoria in the mid-1950s when he was three years old, Morris was initially placed in a government-run boys’ home, then fostered to the care of Mrs McNamara when he was aged five.

Morris described the regular physical abuse meted out by Mrs McNamara as extreme. On one occasion he was playing in the backyard when he didn’t make it to the toilet and soiled himself. An infuriated Mrs McNamara made Morris kneel on the ground while she repeatedly hurled the play-swing into his face.

‘Then she started hitting the back of my head. See all the scars? They were all done from the swing. Anyway, she grabbed me off and I started spewing, I was bleeding all over the place and that. She grabbed me by the head and told me to eat it – eat up all the shit, the spew, the blood, and by that time I was just going crazy.

‘There was neighbours all around. They were all shouting out to her to stop, but they were scared of her. There were people shouting out, “Stop it! Stop it!” Then she took me into the bedroom and put my leg up on the bed there and put a wet towel around it, and jumped on my leg and broke my leg in a couple of places. They’re still there, the scars, and my foot’s a lot smaller.’

Morris said he couldn’t remember how many times he’d been in hospital for injuries sustained as a result of the assaults. McNamara used to ‘throw me around the house all the time’ and once held Morris’s head to a gas burner so he ended up with burns on his face and lost his hair and eyebrows. On one occasion she inserted a broom in his rectum and he passed out and woke up in hospital. The neighbours had called the police who attended the house and witnessed the assaults but said it wasn’t their responsibility and was a matter for community services.

Morris often had black eyes, bruising and other obvious signs of injury, but despite reports to the police by his schoolteacher, scoutmaster and neighbours, no further action was ever taken. The sexual assault with the broom also involved McNamara cutting Morris’ penis so it required surgery. The then six-year-old was placed back into her care.

Morris was eventually removed and sent to a government-run boys’ home where he found brothers he didn’t know he had. Physical scars now included a badly disfigured face which made him vulnerable to bullying and assaults by other boys.

He said the headmaster, Mr Wilson, took a particular dislike to him and would often make him get out of bed in the middle of the night and stand naked outside. Afterwards he wouldn’t be allowed to have breakfast and he consequently spent the whole time in the home feeling hungry. Morris’s numerous failed attempts at escape were punished with beatings that left him unable to walk for several days.

Years later, Morris met a nurse who’d worked in the hospital and described his childhood injuries just as Morris had remembered them. This incident and the late discovery of photos from hospital admissions corroborated and validated his memories. He described his treatment in childhood as having had a lasting impact throughout his life.

He’d threatened suicide many times and it was only sport and his wife, he said, that had kept him alive.

Morris said he was disappointed that a 2009 proposal to ensure adequate and free health care for survivors of child sexual abuse had not manifested. He’d recently commenced civil action for compensation, but thought the $85,000 offered was inadequate for his years of hospital admissions and emotional and physical distress. He’d been told that his report had come too late. ‘I reported it that many times to the police growing up’, he said. ‘But they did nothing about it.’

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