Neville's story

Neville was born in a small Welsh town just after the Second World War and was sent to Australia as part of a child migrant scheme when he was around five years old.

Neville believes his parents were tricked into sending him away by the organisation who ran the scheme. ‘To their [the organisation’s] story, it was like war kids and all that. But I had a good family. They were just taking kids from their family, telling the mother, “Oh, they’ll get a good life, they’ll get this and get that”.’

When Neville arrived in Western Australia, he was sent to a boys’ home run by the Christian Brothers. After he was there for a little while, ‘things started happening’.

Neville was sexually abused during swimming lessons in the river. The Brothers, including Brother Walker and Brother Richards, would dunk the boys under the water repeatedly.

‘Then they started sort of playing with you a bit, or they’d say “do this, do that”. And being a kid, you’d shit yourself wouldn’t you.’

He was scared of being flogged if he did not do the sexual things the Brothers asked him to. ‘We were only little kids, you know. That went for a good, fair while, doing that. I just sort of kept it and cried.’

Neville was often flogged by the Brothers for wetting the bed, or not doing well at school. ‘Then the whole thing would start again, go down the river ... You’re nervous all the time.’ He would sometimes wet his pants out of fear.

The sexual abuse also happened ‘at night time, you’d wet the bed, [they’d] put their hand in the bed, or take you down to where they sleep’. He would lie in the dark praying to God to help him. Listening to the footsteps of the Brothers, he’d try to ‘not breathe and stay still, then they’d go to someone else’s bed’.

Neville continued to be sexually and physically abused at the next Christian Brothers home he was sent to. One of the Brothers ‘used to take me to his office, right, and give you lollies and then he’ll start telling you to do things to him ... Again, it started again, and then you’d get floggings. You don’t do it, they’d just flog you.’

Neville’s didn’t finish Grade 6 before being sent to work as a farm hand. He was flogged at the first farm he was sent to, and treated ‘like rubbish’ at the next one. Around this time he tried to kill himself by jumping in front of a car.

‘Once you leave that home, you’re on your own, and you’ve got to start thinking, what can I do?’ He started stealing to get by, got caught, and was put in juvenile detention. He moved from place to place a lot, sleeping in toilet blocks or cars.

When he was 21 he could access his personal records, and he approached Welfare. They told him, ‘You’ve got no-one. You were found on the doorstep’.

By the time Neville traced his family in Wales, his parents were deceased. He was able to visit his brother and sister a couple of times, once with the assistance of the Child Migrants Trust. As for their relationship, Neville said that ‘it’s not the same, it’s a different feeling. You love them but it’s a different sort of love’.

The sexual abuse affected Neville’s attitudes to physical intimacy. ‘I used to take girls out, but I never used to touch them, because I used to think, oh that’s dirty, I’ll get into trouble. They’d sort of get onto you, and probably want it, and I’d think, oh no, and then I’d nick off.’

Relationships were also difficult. He didn’t want to marry until his 40s, as ‘I didn’t want to get pushed around ... I didn’t want nobody to tell me what to do. I’d had enough of it’.

He has now been married for 25 years – ‘she’s the apple of my eye’ – and has a good relationship with his children. Although he had used alcohol to cope in the past, he quit drinking when they had the kids.

Neville applied to Redress WA regarding his abuse in care and received a payment. He feels this is ‘dirty money’ and has not touched it.

He also received a payment from the Catholic Church, after being visited by two Catholic priests at his house. They questioned him about his childhood in the homes, which he found very distressing. He hasn’t touched this money either, but hopes that his kids will eventually benefit from the compensation.

In the 1990s he went to an old boys’ reunion, but it was difficult and he didn’t stay very long. He finds talking about the abuse is helpful in the short-term, though it doesn’t make it go away.

‘It’s just one of these things. It’s good to talk to someone about it, it relieves it, but ... therapy won’t fix it. Nothing won’t fix it. It’s up to me to fix it but I would never fix it because it’s locked inside. It’s up here, memories.’

Even though Neville was mostly illiterate until recently, he has worked all of his life, and paid off his house early. ‘We were brought up to work, and if you don’t work you get flogged.’ In his later years he decided to go to TAFE. He achieved qualifications in aged care and disability care, and finally learned to read.

Neville enjoys working with elderly clients, and those living with disabilities. He told the Royal Commission that he has a gift of ‘caring’, and that ‘maybe it was meant to be, because I haven’t had it in my life, so I’ll give it to someone else.’

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