Reginald and his siblings were made wards of the state in the early 1970s, after his mother was incarcerated. When he was six, he was placed in a Baptist boys’ home a few hours north-west of Brisbane, and stayed there for the decade.
For most of this time at the home, Reginald was separated from his siblings, only being reunited with his brothers in his mid teens. His sisters were placed in foster care elsewhere. His mother ‘was never allowed to see us again, until we were old enough to leave the home’.
The home enforced a strict, regimented lifestyle, and Reginald was not shown any affection by the adults looking after him. ‘It was like the same mentality as what jail is ... It was just a life without love, I suppose.’
The kids all had to do hard physical chores, and from a young age Reginald spent a couple of hours each day working in the dairy. His houseparent, Mr Phillips, would beat him with a strap or cane.
‘He would just walk in and start swinging that belt. He was a big man. He was around 18 stone, and he’d let you have the whole lot of it until he was done.’
One time Phillips punished Reginald and some other boys by making them stand with his legs apart, bending over to touch the ground, because they had giggled in church. The boys had stay this way for an hour and a half.
Another time, he ‘asked an older boy to take me outside and give me a hiding, which happened’.
Boys of various ages slept in the dormitories together, teenagers and little kids together. Reginald was sexually abused a number of times in the dormitories at night. Because it was dark, ‘I didn’t know who it was. I yelled out one time, and it came to an abrupt end’.
He can’t say for sure who touched him, but remembers a boy who one time ‘was masturbating himself in front of me and another young fellow. It pretty well could have been him’.
After he completed Year 10, Reginald was expelled from school. Having been ejected from home around this same time, he had nowhere to live, and roamed the streets of the nearest big town.
‘I started fighting on the streets, and ended up in a whole heap of trouble with the law ... I don’t think I had any respect for the law whatsoever, or authority, because of that start to my life.’
Speaking to the Royal Commission was the first time Reginald has ever disclosed the sexual abuse, and he has not ever made a police report about any of the abuse at the home. ‘I’ve just pushed it to the back of my mind.’ Until recently he was not aware that he may be able to apply for compensation, and has since sought legal advice about doing so.
Reginald had a number of ‘failed relationships’, and has a couple of children, but lives alone now. Although he has family in the same town, he’s not ever told them about his experiences of abuse. He told the Commissioner, ‘I’ve never really got into talking about personal issues with people’. Now though, he feels he may be ready to access counselling or other support services.
He is separated from his youngest child’s mother who ‘had a few problems’. Their son was taken from her at birth, and placed in state care ‘and I haven’t been able to have access to him, because I am yet to prove that I am his father’.
Being on a disability pension due to workplace injuries, Reginald cannot afford to pay for DNA tests to confirm his paternity. He has asked Child Safety for assistance with obtaining these tests, but they will not provide this. ‘And because of that, I’m denied access to my own son. It’s not right.’
This situation is causing him considerable stress, as he is worried his son will be subjected to the same experiences that he had in care. ‘He’s going to go through the same thing I went through, that's the way I feel. I want more than anything to have him with me.’
Reginald wants to give his son the love and attention he never had himself. ‘It just feels like I’m going through the same thing my mother did. You know, how she wasn’t allowed to access us, and I lost all contact with her, lost the major love of our lives.’
For now, until he can prove his paternity, Reginald can’t even discover where his child is living. ‘I haven’t even had a chance to bond with my son ... He’s getting to that age where he’s going to probably make that bond with someone else, some woman who’s actually a stranger to him.’