‘When we were taken away, it was a shattering experience for our family. They came for us and told me they were [taking us] to a fair … It changed my whole life and it is important to record my story. My life has been turned upside down by this event. I am still very angry, my health has gone downhill.’
Neale was eight in the late 1960s, when he and his siblings were removed from their family and put into separate boys’ and girls’ homes. He and his brother went to a Methodist home in Brisbane. From the time of their arrival until they left years later, the home was a tough place.
‘You had to learn to fight’, Neale recalls. ‘First day I got there, fight straight away. You had to learn to fight and that’s the way it was.’
Not long after he arrived, Neale was taken from his bed one night by Mark, a member of staff. ‘He came and took me, lifted me out of the bed and took me to his room. When I got to the room there was another boy, John, in Mark’s bed.’
Mark got into bed between the two boys and then ‘raped both of us’. The next morning Neale ‘had a lot of pain in my backside’. He saw John in the shower and ‘he looked very sad’.
Neale estimated that Mark was aged in his 20s or 30s. He thought that he’d sexually abused most of the boys in the home – ‘he had a smorgasbord to pick from’.
Neither Neale nor John reported the abuse. ‘I was too ashamed to tell anyone.’
Until recently it hadn’t occurred to Neale to report Mark to police, but he was now thinking of doing so.
He’d grown up to ‘hate authority’ and ‘not to trust people in authority like police or anybody higher than me that looked down on me and told you this and that’.
‘I just rebelled against everything – society, the lot. Teachers and everything. I assaulted a schoolteacher at school when I was in Grade 10.’
As part of the Queensland redress scheme, Neale received an initial payment of $7,000 and a subsequent amount of $22,000, which he described at ‘shut up money’.
In his adult years, Neale had been in jail at different times. He’d been homeless and had access to his children restricted by court orders. ‘All I wanted was to see my kids, you know, and they made me out to be the Devil and that, you know, just because I had a criminal history and that. I wasn’t hurting nobody. That killed me. That broke my heart, they did.’
He’d seen counsellors at various points in his life but found he’d ‘get to a certain point where I just shut up and then I can’t say nothing more’.
‘I know a lot of people you know, they don’t even want to talk about it no more, they just try to forget. But it’s hard to forget. That’s why people drown themselves in the bottle or drugs or whatever. You see it every day you know - it’s always on your mind and just little things bring flashbacks and then you see the news on TV and you see all these people going through exactly the same thing and you know exactly what they’re going through so you don’t forget. That’s why you try and drown yourself in the bottle but it doesn’t help that much. It only works for a few hours and that’s it because you wake up and you still got the same problem so it doesn’t solve nothing …
‘It’s ruined my life. I been an alcoholic since I was 16. I used to try everything else – cocaine, heroin, speed. I don’t touch that stuff no more. I like to have a bit of pot now ‘cause it keeps me placid. It keeps me from getting angry. It just keeps me nice and mellow. It keeps me calm, saves me from getting angry, so that’s why.’