Nate Christopher's story

As a child Nate ‘seen a lot of domestic violence’, much of it as a result of his father’s heavy drinking. When Nate’s mother died, the children were taken from their father and placed in a lot of different foster homes. In one of these Nate’s sister was sexually abused and when she and Nate tried to tell the visiting social worker about it, they were told ‘it was lies’.

Nate kept running away and at the age of 15 he was placed in a juvenile correctional centre in Queensland, where children were ‘brutalised’.

When some of the officers showed Nate particular attention, he thought they were ‘being nice’.

‘But in the end it wasn’t being nice, I think it was just grooming’, Nate said. ‘You know like, I was having showers and they’d say comments about how big your penis was and, “You’re a good looking boy” and at first I was only young and naïve. I didn't think much of it until one of the officers there, Officer Hills, he come around to my room one night and it was not very nice. At first he was talking nice to me and I thought, well, someone’s paying attention to me, you know - like, I didn’t see much attention as a kid.’

For two years through the mid to late 1980s, Nate was in and out of the correctional centre, and after he’d tried to report the abuse while he was outside, he found when he went back in the officers ‘turned on’ him.

‘After a while it wasn’t the officer any more. It was, I think, one of the inmates must have seen what was going on at night, and he was quite harsh. He started making me try to perform sexual acts on him, you know. You couldn’t talk to the officers about what when on as a child because [the centre] wasn’t a very nice place. A lot of kids got bashed. There was a lot of standing over and at that age I was only, like, a little, short bloke. I was only a tiny child.’

At 17 Nate left the centre and went to live with his father. He hadn’t talked to him all the time he was inside because he hated him ‘for what went on with my mum’.

‘I went to my dad. I finally thought, well maybe Dad’s not that bad. So I went back to live with my dad for a while and I sort of stayed out of the system. I tried to talk to Dad about what went on at [the centre] but it was too hard. I sort of found drug use then. I started using drugs from when I was 15. I was into methamphetamines then, but it wasn’t meth back then, it was just amphetamines.’

Nate did some labouring work but continued to use drugs and commit crimes and for a while he was in adult jails. During one stint, after coming across the inmate who’d previously made him ‘perform sexual acts on him’, Nate tried to take his own life.

‘They just threw me up in the detention unit, stripped me down. They didn’t take into consideration any of what was going on.’

No one asked and Nate didn’t tell anyone why he’d attempted to take his own life. He was kept in maximum security for a week and each morning had his mattress and sheets taken from his cell. ‘All they do is leave you in a pair of shorts for the day’.

Between terms of imprisonment Nate was using heroin as well as methamphetamines, and ‘always just wanted to die’.

In the mid-1990s he moved interstate and was going well, he said, having met a woman and had children. However when he found out his partner was having an affair he ‘went back to my old life again’.

More drugs and criminal charges resulted in serious criminal convictions, and Nate spoke to the Royal Commission from prison where he was awaiting sentencing on further charges.

It was the first time as an adult that he’d disclosed the abuse. When he’d told his sister that he was going to speak to the Commission she replied that she’d ‘always wondered whether something happened’ to him as a child.

He’d never reported the inmate or officer to police but was thinking of doing so now, in case they currently had access to children.

He thought an apology from the Queensland Government might ‘show a bit of respect’ to him, ‘because they didn’t do much for me as a kid. Like I can’t see why they put someone who’s just running away from home into a place like [the correctional centre].’

Nate’s sister had found her welfare files but there was no mention in them of reports to the social worker about abuse. Nate had no interest in trying to get his file. ‘I’d like to leave the past in the past. That’s what I always used to try to say to my sister: “Why keep digging stuff up and making yourself feel bad when you don’t really have to, you know?” Here, I’m on a high dose of medication so I can try to go to sleep at night and it’s the best of what I can do while I’m here.’

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