‘It screws you up. It’s pretty sad for me. But I couldn’t do anything about it, you know.’
In the late 1980s, Reid became a ward of the state in Queensland. He was six years old. His father was an extremely abusive man and his parents separated. He was placed in foster care but found it very difficult to settle.
‘I had a hard time staying in one foster place … I’d run away all the time.’
He often felt that the foster families treated him differently to their own children and would ‘always find a way to get rid of me’. This meant that he moved around a great deal, ‘lots of different schools and places’, as a child. Kinship care was also unsuccessful.
‘I look back on it now and … I reckon I was just a MoneyGram … for [the foster parents] to make money. I wasn’t the star of the attraction. I believe that if you foster some child … you want to make that child [feel cared for].’
At one stage when he was seven years old, Reid was placed back with his father.
‘He was a hard man. He smashed me a lot. When I was about seven I copped a bad hiding from my dad … he bashed me with dog chains for about three hours.’
Child Services intervened and Reid was put back into foster care where he continued to run away.
‘Went to a special school for out of control kids and … that was a last ditch effort … I was 10 when I broke a teacher’s nose. I was expelled … took correspondence … got a tutor in … They just ran out of options. I was known as the ‘out of control kid’. I’d been through a lot of bad stuff as a young kid in foster care … never, never felt safe … the reason I run away.’
Reid was 12 years old when he was sent to a Catholic-run boys’ home for troubled children. He spent two years there.
‘I learnt a lot of stuff I shouldn’t have. I experimented with drugs for the first time. Alcohol for the first time … Brothers’ quarters they’d hold liquor on premises. Older boys would come and nick the alcohol … drinking … every second night … I was treated pretty rough there. I was only young, only small … as a kid I was picked on.’
He had been subjected to violence all his young life and found the environment of the boys’ home familiar.
‘When I’d be assaulted by staff members and boys [I found it] I guess at the time, not normal, but just another day.
‘They had the strap, a big piece of leather … take us into the classroom … make us pull our pants down … they’d hit us with that strap. It was about an inch thick, 30 or 40 cm long … when you got hit with it, it left a big welt.’
Reid would often report the treatment he received to the Brother who was the director of the home. Reid would be bribed with lollies and cigarettes and his complaints not taken seriously.
‘There were so many times, so many times like that … It was pretty hard to take as a kid.’
This Brother would also watch Reid and other boys take showers and assist them to dry themselves afterwards.
Reid was sexually abused by another Brother who ran the sick bay at the home. Reid had injured himself in class. The Brother stitched up his injury but then asked him to take his clothes off.
‘I was oblivious … He said to me before I left “Had I been injured anywhere else?” And asked if I could take my shirt off and have a look. Thought nothing of it and took my shirt off. He started to turn me around. His hands were all over me … the thought didn’t even come into my head at the time. He asked me to jump up on the bed and take my pants off first and jump up onto the bed. And I did.’
The Brother examined his legs and genitals and made disparaging and concerning comments about Reid’s penis.
‘I don’t know what made me … but I jumped up, I thought this ain’t right … [The Brother] said “[Your penis] just doesn’t look right ... if it starts to … get sore in a couple of days just come back and see me. I’ll take care of it for you.” He was talking real calmly … Had a persona … very smooth … no one would have suspected a thing because of his personality.’
Reid was given the afternoon off school and didn’t mention the incident to anyone.
‘It circled around me head for a long time … until I was old enough, till I was about 17 or 18, three years went past before I grew old enough to realise what had happened.’
‘I stayed there for two years. I had nowhere else to go … You can’t change it … you can’t look back, you know. It wasn’t a good place.’
Reid left the boys’ home when he was 14 years old and was placed in youth detention. Detention was tough. There was physical abuse from other boys and staff and punishments that included solitary confinement in a room with no light.
‘They didn’t fuck around … They used to leave us down there … I just hated being locked up. I just hated being confined … It’s a sad thing. It’s just a sad thing, locking kids up.’
He left the system and went back to live with his father but his father kicked him out after Reid got into trouble with the police.
‘Got a job and lost the job in a week … ‘cause my head wasn’t right … I lived on the streets. I wasn’t really into heavy drugs … before I knew it I was a full blown alcoholic.’
Reid has spent considerable time in jail but is now interested in reconnecting with his Aboriginal family and seeking compensation and counselling for his years of abuse.
‘I’ve always been in denial … I’ve got issues you know … trauma is a real big thing … all the stuff I’ve been through, I hold it inside … I was a violent person, I was a very violent person and I’ve paid the price for that.
‘There are many times I’ve woke up and felt like I’ve had the worst life possible and stuff like that, but … you think of people in wheelchairs … I kind of think “what are you crying about”.’