‘When it happened he made it clear to me that if I was to tell anybody he’d make sure that I was put back into the groups, with the kids that I didn’t like, and he would tell them that I was … a police informer. And that I was telling on them for things like smoking … He also told me he’d have me removed to [a centre] which was for the older kids, 16 to 18, and I’d heard stories about the centre and it scared me.’
Neil was 13 years old when he was sexually abused in a Western Australian remand centre in the late 1980s. He’d had many run-ins with the police before he was taken to the centre.
‘By the time I was 10 or 11, I was out on my own … on the streets, stealing cars, stuff like that … I might go home once a fortnight … There was no one looking for me … having been through the [juvenile] courts quite a few times, they sent me to the remand centre.’
Because Neil was a ‘small, skinny boy’ he was bullied by others in the remand centre.
‘I went in there and I got picked on heaps. I’d get belted … get picked on by the kids and beaten up.’
In his written statement to the Royal Commission, Neil stated that, ‘A large number of times I was escorted to my cell after having altercations with other inmates or I simply stated that I wished to remain in my cell rather than mix with people who I felt might bully me’.
But Neil wasn’t safe in his cell either.
‘This officer … he knew I was getting picked on … After I spent a lot of time in my cell, he’d come to my cell and speak to me.’
The officer gave Neil cans of drink and chocolate bars and groomed Neil into trusting him. He then began to sexually abuse him. Neil was too scared to tell anyone at the time and has never really talked about his abuse or received counselling.
‘I could never let my mum know … ‘cause she would’ve collapsed.’
Neil was released after two months and still only 13 years old, he moved interstate.
He has never reported his abuser to police, primarily because he has been in the corrections system and didn’t feel safe. He also finds it very difficult to open up about that time of his life.
‘I confided in a girlfriend once … she had some sympathy for me but after we broke up she told people about it. You people are the first people I’ve spoken to about it.’
Neil has deep trust issues and has dealt with the trauma of his childhood through drugs.
‘Since I started with the boys’ homes I’ve never spent any longer than six months out of prison … Been in jail most of my life. I use hard drugs outside, I use heroin … and I’m on the methadone program [inside] … I’ve just always taken drugs. I’m the kind of person that has to have something every day.’
Neil decided to come forward to the Royal Commission after seeing media reports on the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory.
‘I didn’t just cop sexual stuff in there. They belted me as well. It was a daily occurrence.’
Neil has a son aged in his 20s and wants to establish a better relationship with him, but knows he has to address his childhood abuse. He found the process of preparing a written statement for the Commissioner difficult but a first step in his healing.
‘It’s pretty hard to go through [the private session]. It was hard enough just to write it up.’
He is thinking about reporting the abuser to police and wants compensation to support trauma-informed counselling. He thanked the Commissioner for hearing his story.