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Padraic's story

Padraic was two when his family emigrated from Ireland to South Australia in the early 1970s. After his parents separated, his mother became entirely responsible for raising the adolescent Padraic and his siblings on her own.

Padraic’s mother found caring for her children an arduous task, particularly once Padraic started missing school and spending time with an older crowd of boys. She sought advice from a local social worker who suggested he be put into care. After Padraic was involved in a serious offence, his mother agreed.

‘I was getting in trouble, like I said, not going to school and hanging around the city hanging out with boys older than me and doing a little bit of trouble. And I found myself involved in a break and enter when I was about just turned 14 I think with some older guys.

'And they got away and I got caught and I was arrested, taken to the police station … And I wasn’t allowed to go home. I didn’t understand what was going on … I stayed in care from that point on.’

After being made a ward of the state, Padraic was sent to a youth remand centre which he described as ‘a scary place’. Residents were required to perform onerous chores and subjected to strip searches which were often carried out by force. ‘We were made to scrub floors with toothbrushes, things like that … Really strict physical training, it was almost military-style.’

Padraic also found there was a culture of violence among the boys which the officers did little to prevent. ‘There was a lot of violence between the boys … They encouraged it sometimes. They turned a blind eye.’

Another resident at the centre was Nick, who had just turned 18 when Padraic arrived, and was ‘one of the more crueller boys, one of the more boisterous and pushy’. Padraic ‘knew something was going to happen’ so he avoided Nick as much as possible. ‘He liked to pick on the more vulnerable kids.’

One day Padraic was in the shower when Nick attacked and sexually assaulted him. Other boys were present but did not get involved. On a subsequent occasion, Nick attacked Padraic again in the showers, this time resulting in Padraic being hospitalised with a detached retina and badly damaged eye socket. When he returned from hospital he was relieved to find that Nick was no longer there, but as far as he knows Nick was never charged for the assault.

‘He was gone by the time I came back. Nothing much had changed though.’

Padraic stayed at the centre until he was 18. He was never offered any counselling and support, and was frequently told that his mother no longer wanted him. After his release he began abusing drugs and alcohol, and started acquiring a criminal record, spending time in prison for stealing offences.

Several years ago Padraic gave a statement to the South Australian Mullighan Inquiry about his experiences at the remand centre, but his story was rejected and he received no explanation for this. A number of years ago, upon hearing the centre was to be destroyed, Padraic decided to visit the site, which he found traumatising. ‘I felt ill.’

Padraic experiences trust issues, suicidal ideation, depression, anxiety and PTSD. He has never received compensation or reported the assault to the police because of his mistrust of authority. ‘I’ve been fighting the battle I’ve had for so long.’

Padraic has never told his family about the abuse but speaks with a victim support worker once a week. In addition to recently undertaking university study, Padraic gains strength from the support he receives from his partner. He believes that children in juvenile detention should be given more humane treatment, and that people who have been abused should not be afraid to speak out about their experiences.

‘You always find it’s easier to talk about something if people around you are talking about it.’

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