Randal’s white mother and Aboriginal father moved their ‘tribe of kids’ to Queensland to find work. As one of their youngest, apart from ‘a few kicks up the bum sometimes from Dad’, Randal had a home life that involved fun things like motor bike riding, and holidays with relatives interstate.
However, by the early 1980s, Randal started to get ‘a bit wayward’. Not liking high school, he got ‘mixed up with the wrong crowd’ and, following a court order, was sent a children’s home run by the state government.
‘It was a terrible place for young boys to be’, Randal recalled. Barely in his teens, he was subjected to brutal and belittling strip searches, and mostly kept in solitary confinement.
Once, Randal escaped with another boy who took him to stay with one of the training officers. Back at the facility, the officer started ‘making advances’. ‘He’d come down, fondle me in my room, but also give me cigarettes and stuff like that’. Randal ‘just didn’t know what to do’. Telling anyone ‘would only make your life worse’, he said.
A couple of years later, after telling a judge ‘I want an education, your honour’, Randal was moved to accommodation run by a Catholic order.
Immediately, Randal learned a harsh lesson. When he stood up to a bully, another boy warned him to stop because Brother O’Malley ‘will get you if you do anything to him’. Later that day, O’Malley came up behind Randal, grabbed his throat, stuck his hand down his pants and started to fondle him. He ‘told me I gotta learn how things are run down there’, Randal said. ‘And I just died. I went empty inside, that moment. Just thought, "This can’t be right".'
After this incident, O’Malley, who was the deputy director of the institution, really ‘had it in’ for him. ‘He’d always want to fight me, want to flog me’, Randal said. ‘Every excuse he could get, he would flog me.’
Other Brothers also played favourites. ‘Certain brothers would align themselves with certain boys’, Randal said. ‘You had to work out where you were, and which group of boys you wanted to hang with, for protection, ‘cause the Brothers weren’t shy of dishing out punishment.’ This atmosphere kept all the boys on ‘tenterhooks’. It was like ‘walking on egg shells’, he said.
Randal was sexually abused by a total of five men, and was not backwards about speaking up. He reported the groping incident to the director, Brother Peter, but the Brother ‘just laughed’ and did nothing. He told a child services worker that boys were being flogged and molested, but the worker ‘just brushed it off’ and ‘sidetracked’ him by talking about motorbikes. Randal also told a visiting social worker, to no avail.
Randal carries some shame about a sexual relationship initiated by a cottage mother on the day he was saying goodbye. The relationship between the under-aged boy, and the woman in her 30s, continued for some months until Brother Peter asked how he was going to support the woman and her kids. At that point, Randal ‘thought it would be best to stop’.
In the mid-1980s, during a one-week stay at a Catholic-run children’s hostel, Randal was physically assaulted. After he left the hostel, he attained a trade qualification, and then just wandered around ‘from job to job’.
With his teenage partner, he started a family that he struggled to provide for. ‘I couldn’t keep a job down because of my own insecurities’, he recalled. ‘Just managed to keep our head above water.’ However, he admits that having a family, ‘saved me, in a sense’.
Three decades later, Randal and his partner are proud parents of several adult children. Even though they suspect that he experienced abnormal things in his youth, Randal won’t ‘pollute’ his children’s minds, or burden them, by telling him about the abuse.
Randal takes medication for his long-term depression, and receives help from a mental health case worker. However, he feels that life is ‘getting easier’.
‘I used to have six bad days a week, and one good day. Now I’m having probably four or five bad days a week, and two good days a week’. He also has a beloved grandchild who ‘just melts everything away’.
In the early 2000s, Randal went through the ‘terrible’ Towards Healing process which ‘just kept it all in-house … It was like being raped all over again. There was no justice in it’, he said. Saying that they neither believed nor denied his complaint, they offered him $15,000. Demoralised, and short of money, Randal accepted the money because ‘otherwise we would have been out on the street’.
Randal made a criminal complaint to the police a few years ago. More recently, he gave a statement to the police who are conducting Task Force Argos. To his knowledge, none of the perpetrators have been brought to justice.
Randal heard that Peter had received a Father of the Year award. As a victim of sexual abuse which had occurred on this Brother’s watch, Randal was shocked. He was also saddened that this abuse had stopped him from being the best father he could be. He said ‘I believe my children deserved better then what I could give them’.