Nev's story

‘I broke into a hardware. I mean, Mum and Dad had split up, Mum was holding down two jobs; there was no one there to help me and I got mixed up in the wrong crowd. I was only young … 12, 13 years old … and they made me a ward of the state. I didn’t even know I was a ward of the state until about two years ago.’

Nev told the Commissioner that his mother ‘used to say I was a very nasty person … and I was like my dad. My dad was a very violent person; he used to beat us up bad, and used to beat Mum in front of us. That’s the sort of life I’ve had to live'. Nev never revealed to his mother that his father sexually abused him when he was a child.

Nev was sent to a reformatory in Western Australia in the mid 1970s. ‘About two weeks after I arrived there, the beatings started because my clothes wasn’t perfectly folded … You had to have everything in a perfect square. If it wasn’t, this bloke used to come up, slap you across the head.’

Walter Hobson was one of two guards in the reformatory who were particularly brutal. Hobson physically and sexually abused Nev during the eight months he spent at the centre.

‘There was quite a few times where he used to make me look into the ground, because the floors had to be highly polished. And he grabbed the back of my hair, put my head down to the floor and said, “Can you see your face?” and of course I said, “Yes”. Next minute … he smashed my head into the ground. And this went on for ages. I couldn’t handle it.’

The other guard made sure that Nev was always last in line for the shower. He then picked up a bucket of powder, poured it over Nev’s head, and made him ‘stand there for 10 minutes, and this stuff was burning my skin … I started crying. He come up and slapped me, “Get under the shower, you cry baby”. He’d take me back to my cell and lock the door. No tea. No nothing. This happened so many times’.

The first time Nev escaped, he was on the run for about a month before he was caught and sent back. ‘And it got worse. The abuse got worse. The sexual abuse got worse. There was no sexual penetration … He used to play around with me. He used to make me masturbate him and things like that. I don’t know, they were just sadistic pigs. That’s the way I look at it.’

Nev told the Commissioner, ‘I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was the way they punished people back then. I mean, I was only a kid … and what my father did to me, I thought that was punishment’.

Nev told the Commissioner that none of the boys at the reformatory spoke about the abuse. ‘We just got on with what we had to do. But you can hear the kids screaming in the morning … he beat me up one morning, [and] there was a bloke next door yelled out “Leave him alone, you arsehole”, and he stopped and he walked out the door.’ However, he still came back the next day.

Nev was too scared to report Hobson because he ‘always looked at me and says, “I can make your time less if you just do as I tell you” … to do with the sex part of it. He said, “If you tell on anyone, I’ll make sure you get an extra two or three years on top” and that’s why I shut up'.

The second time Nev ran away he was caught and taken to a reception centre. From there he was sent to another juvenile detention facility, where he suffered no further abuse.

When he was released after eight months, ‘I just wanted to end it. I didn’t know who I was anymore’. He tried to kill himself twice, by standing on the train tracks, but he couldn’t go through with it.

Nev had little education. When he came out of juvenile detention, he began working straight away. ‘Work, keep yourself busy. People give me compliments … wasn’t interested in compliments. I don’t know. I was just a nasty person when I come out … I used to abuse my mum for no reason at all. What little friends I had, I used to abuse them.’

Nev married young and had children, but ‘[his wife] put up with 10 years of my abuse, yelling, screaming at her. She didn’t need to go through that, but I couldn’t tell her what happened … I did hit her, which is wrong of me and it’s something I’ve got to live with now, what sort of person I was’.

Nev told the Commissioner that people who work in institutions need to be screened properly. ‘It’s happening today in this jail … They come in in a bad mood. They take it out on the prisoners. And I’ve watched this for … years. People getting abused by officers.’

Nev isn’t interested in applying for compensation, but he would appreciate an apology ‘for what I’ve lived with all my life’. He came to the Royal Commission because, ‘if it can help someone. If it can bring more people out, good.

'I found it hard last night. I just sat there and cried my eyes out. It just bought so many memories … There was no need to do that to us kids'.

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