‘I’ve actually found out through my file … I was classed as uncontrollable … but it goes back to when I was actually apparently running away from home when I was four.’
Ned was first handed over to community services in New South Wales by his mother when he was seven years old, but his family issues had begun long before.
‘My mother was a very abusive ... you know, very abusive. She used to flog me with a jug cord, and my father was a very, very violent person … He was a chronic alcoholic and a very violent person and he used to, you know, molest me and all that sort of stuff.’
Ned spent his childhood in and out of children’s homes and juvenile detention centres. His parents would take him out, and when they found they couldn’t control him, put him back in. In the early 1980s, when Ned was about 13, he was made a ward of the state.
The first children’s home Ned went to was ‘very, very rough … Abuse, sexual abuse, very, very rough discipline. It was mainly the night staff that more or less abused me and abused a lot of other kids in there that I remember’.
When Ned went into the home, he ‘tried to isolate myself from other kids … I didn’t want to have nothing to do with anybody and didn’t want to do as what I was told, or whatever, so I had to scrub the main shower block’.
Ned recalled one night when he was scrubbing the toilets, ‘the night staff bloke … actually came behind me … with a pair of handcuffs and actually handcuffed me to the back of the toilet and sexually abused me that way’.
The night staff worker regularly sexually abused Ned for two to three years. ‘I actually tried to push him away once. I remember it … “What do you think you’re doing mate? You can’t turn around and do this to me” … and then he said to me … “Look, I can do whatever I want, but if you say anything to the day staff, and I’m back on at night-time, you’re going to cop a flogging”.’
When Ned was sent to a home run by the Marist Brothers, he was forced to perform oral sex on three of the Brothers. He was only at this home for about six months, because he kept running away.
The next place Ned went to was a juvenile detention centre. Here, he was sexually abused by a social worker who strapped him up in bondage gear before the abuse took place. There was also a night warden, who was ‘a very big bloke’. The boys slept in separate rooms at this centre, and the night warden came into their rooms and sexually abused them.
Ned never reported any of the sexual abuse he experienced at any of the institutions. ‘Back at that time, you say anything, you either get bashed or flogged or whatever, so everything was like, under the radar, you know.’
Ned came out of institutional care ‘all messed up’. ‘When you’ve been chucked around from pillar to post … you just don’t know what to do or where to go. You’ve just got to go out there and when you … have got parents and they really don’t want you, what are you supposed to do?’
Ned has spent a lot of time in psychiatric hospitals. The first time he was admitted was when he tried to take his own life when he was 10. From the age of about 16, ‘I was just trying to commit suicide all the time, but it never worked, so I said, “Well, bugger it. I give up”.’
About a year before coming to speak at the Royal Commission, Ned felt his life was going nowhere, and he thought, ‘What could I really do? I was still getting into trouble … and [I could] just live my way, and the way it is, is a disaster, or get me finger out of me arse and start doing something about it.’ So he did, and for the first time, he told someone about the sexual abuse he’d experienced in the institutions.
The person Ned told was a chaplain, who has kept in touch with him and has provided him with assistance when he needs it.
Ned has never told any of his psychiatrists about the abuse, but he has been going to Wattle Place, the service for Forgotten Australians, for a number of years. Talking to his support worker has been a great help to him. ‘It’s still very hurtful stuff. Now, what I’m trying to do is put all my feelings aside … or, deal with them.’
One thing Ned would like to do is to be able to go into one of the juvenile detention centres he was in, and tell the boys there his story. So far he has not had any success gaining permission to do this. He believes there may be a degree of discrimination against him.
‘You want to help because you’ve been through the system, [but] you’re more or less not wanted.’
After so many years of not telling his story, Ned is happy to do so now. ‘I don’t hide anything now. I just couldn’t be bothered. Like, too much has been hidden.’