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Murray's story

Murray was 10 years old when his father died, leaving his mother unable to care for their large family. He and the four youngest children were removed by Family Services and placed in a youth centre in Brisbane.

Five years later, in the mid-1970s, Murray was moved to a children’s home in the suburbs. ‘A lot of bad things happened there.’

Although Murray is Aboriginal, the superintendent, Mr Vernon, placed him in the ‘white’ part of the home.

‘By that time, I’d changed colour, to like a white person, so they isolated me away from the Aboriginal people, they kept me with the white people. And I was getting tormented both ways. “You shouldn’t be over here, you’re not white, you’re black”. And I’d going over the black side ... It was very confusing for me, growing up in the church I thought we were all equal.’

Murray was sent to work with the Aboriginal people in the orchard, and on the dairy farm. Vernon ‘used to come in there and belt me around, and a few other kids.’

Vernon would make Murray go into the calf shed. ‘He would corner you ... big tall man, he’d walk in there and he’d pin you down.’ It was in this shed, ‘he would actually sexually abuse me. I couldn’t understand why he did that’.

Murray could not tell anybody what was happening, as Vernon threatened him with not ever going home or seeing his mother again.

When he didn’t want to go back to the calf shed, Vernon sent him to get bales of lucerne from another shed ‘and he abused me in there too ... he would do the same thing repeatedly, I just thought it was a normal thing’.

Murray was also sexually abused by other staff members. Mr Graves raped him in the shower. Mr Argento raped him by the swimming pool. After the assault by Argento ‘I come back in crying, and so I just went straight to my room’.

Another time Murray was at the pool and Argento ‘knocked me unconscious, and I can see myself under the water’. He went to hospital, and came back to the home with stitches.

‘I thought they would feel sorry for me, but they didn’t feel sorry for me at all. When they had the chance, they’d take it.’ The sexual abuse by Vernon, Graves and Argento continued up until Murray left the home.

Family Services would visit Murray at the home, and ask him if everything was alright. Staff from the home would stand in the background, ‘and you’d be looking at them instead of talking to family services. You know – everything’s all right Miss, everything’s alright’. After the people from Family Services left, the abuse would continue.

At 16-year-old, ‘I thought I was going home.’ However, he wasn’t allowed to return to his mother, but was placed at boarding school.

He ran away when he was 17 and eventually returned to his family.

‘I walked down to my house, and my mum’s sitting there, and my eldest sister comes out and goes “there’s a white fella at the door Mum” ... I’m saying it’s me Mum, it’s Murray ... I was white as a ghost.’

His mother took a lot of convincing that he was her son, until he showed her his birthmark. He got a job soon after, and because he was employed, Family Services let him stay.

Murray’s mother died the year he returned, and he never got to tell her about his time in care. His life began unravelling again after she passed.

‘I felt shame, what happened to me. I’ve been carrying this guilt trip around now for the last 40 years. It made me so confused.’

When he was 19 years old he went to the police to report what happened to him, but they told him, ‘we don’t believe kids, kids tell too many lies’.

He was too ashamed to tell his sisters and brothers about the sexual abuse he experienced, and when he tried to tell his wife she did not believe him at first.

Murray attempted suicide numerous times, and spent time in psychiatric facilities. His twin, who was also in care as a child, died by suicide, and Murray is still mourning this loss.

He has now engaged with a support organisation, and encourages other Aboriginal men he knows to do the same. He told the Royal Commission that accessing this support ‘took a big burden off me, but I still feel the hurt inside’.

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