At four and a half years of age, Nyle witnessed his mother murder his stepfather. Soon afterwards, Nyle and his brother and sister were placed in a Queensland orphanage where they were subjected to severe physical and emotional abuse. Nyle said the nuns seemed to abuse some children for no other reason than that they were Aboriginal.
After two years, the siblings were transferred to another orphanage. Soon after their arrival in the late 1970s, Nyle was sexually abused by a male worker who took Nyle into his home and told him he was part of the family. The man raped Nyle and forced him to perform sexual acts, telling him that was how families showed their love for one another. On several occasions the man’s wife also sexually abused Nyle.
‘Made me cry, made me scream … He said, “This is our secret”. Well it was. No one would know. He give me money – two dollars, mate. Two dollars, one dollar, that was big money back then. And the female, she joined in a couple of times there. Whenever he got a chance he just took it, you know.’
After some time, Nyle left that orphanage and was sent to a government-run children’s home where he was again physically and sexually assaulted.
‘The abuse started there again with this other person, this other man. He done exactly the same kind of thing too but he did it more like, he forced himself, he just threw me round the room and hit me round, scaring me and bashing me … and that happened for all the years of my life there.’
In this home too, cruel treatment was routine and Nyle said Aboriginal children got the worst of it. Sometimes they’d be severely beaten for things like speaking when they hadn’t been spoken to.
At 12, Nyle left the home and lived for a while with his sister who had children of her own. Rarely going to school, Nyle started committing crimes and at 13, he was sent to a youth detention centre. He remembers it as a harsh place but without the level of physical abuse he’d encountered in the children’s homes. Nevertheless, he was subjected to emotional and sexual abuse and unusual punishments such as when guards would make Nyle and other children stand naked in a room while they looked on through a two-way mirrored window.
‘Make you stand in a room for an hour and half naked, and you can hear them behind the window, laughing, talking and carrying on. And when you walk out there, there’s about five or six fucking men there. They’re all deviant buggers you know. And they say, “Now go and put your clothes on”.’
Nyle was raped at the youth detention centre by two perpetrators. Both would give him lollies, cigarettes and marijuana. One man was a guard who worked at the centre; the other, a visiting priest.
Nyle spoke to the Commissioner from prison. ‘I been in jail all my life, trying to kill this pain, trying to kill this thing … That’s when I started using the drugs real bad in the eighties - heroin, speed, yarnie. Started with yarnie then I got onto speed and the heroin. I had needle marks on me and everything man you know, trying to kill that pain. But then I saw some of my brother boys all dying and I said, “No, fuck that” … and I stopped the drugs.’
Throughout his life he’d often gone into violent rages and ‘took my anger out on my people’. He ‘never hit women’, but when his wife one night touched him in bed while they were sleeping, he reacted by hitting her. In prison and outside he had to sleep by himself.
‘I’m in a room by myself. I can’t hurt no one. And I’m away from peoples in the same state of mind as me – don’t give a fuck. They don’t break you now. I been broken. It’s finally hit me after 20 something years jail.’
Nyle was looking forward to seeing his wife and children and grandchildren on his release. They knew not to touch him or show affection. He described his grandchildren as ‘like little glass’ and worried about them breaking. ‘My glass got broken and I don’t want their glass to get broken. That’s the hardest.’
‘I don’t want to be living in here all my life. I want to get this pain out and let it out and that’s it, no more. No more. And that’s going to be the best part, when this goes from me …. but at the moment motherfucker just lingering around on me.’