Rex Herbert's story

When Rex’s parents split up in the early 1950s, he and his siblings were placed in a state-run orphanage in Melbourne, probably because his parents couldn’t afford to keep their children. Even though all of his siblings were placed into an orphanage, Rex was there longest, and remained in care until he was almost in his teens.

While Rex was living in a cottage for senior boys, the cottage father, Mr Grant, began showing them pornographic material. Grant, and one of the older boys in the cottage, then began touching Rex inappropriately.

Rex told the Commissioner that he remembered an occasion when the older boy took him to a shed and ‘masturbated when he was playing with my penis’. The older boy would also fondle Rex when they were sitting on the couch watching television at night. The boy used the blankets that were covering them as an opportunity to abuse Rex without anyone noticing.

After Rex left the orphanage and went to live with his mother, Grant would come and visit him at home. When Rex started studying at a technical school, Grant was his teacher.

Rex was abused by Grant for the next two or three years, often on camping trips. One time, Rex brought a cousin along to avoid being alone with Grant. However, the cousin was sent on an errand which allowed Grant to once again abuse Rex.

Rex said that the experience of sexual abuse has been ‘detrimental in the long term … I have been very crook. I didn’t even think I’d make it here. I’ve tried taking my life three or four times … They all say, “Forget it, it’s in the past” but I’ve never been able to forget it’.

Rex still feels a sense of guilt and shame. However, he has benefitted from his involvement with a support service for people with mental health, and drug and alcohol issues. He has completed some 12-step programs, and is currently having counselling.

Rex came to the Royal Commission because of his interest in preventing the future abuse of children. ‘These things are still happening … and children today … will most likely have to have counselling in another 15, 20 years time.

‘I’m hoping that after today things will change for the better, and I may die in peace, or have some peace’.

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