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Richard Alan's story

‘I always think if I hadn’t been sent to Australia, I would have been a normal child, I would have been a normal adult.’

Richard, and his brother and sister, came to Australia as British child migrants in the mid-1950s and were sent to a farm school in Victoria.

The conditions there were extremely harsh, with regular physical abuse and constant hunger.

From the age of about six, Richard was sexually abused by a man who delivered wood to the farm. It started with touching and progressed to rape, which continued on a regular basis.

Richard told the Commissioner, ‘As a young boy I used to bleed ’cause I was such a small lad. When he used to do it again, I hadn’t even healed up from the previous ones. You can imagine the pain that I suffered with that’.

He told the matron about the abuse one day and was sent to the principal. The principal then beat him for telling lies. Richard didn’t tell anyone else, not even his brother or sister, because he says he was made to feel like it was his fault. He believes his siblings were both sexually abused at that time too, but they still refuse to talk about it.

‘You thought you had done something wrong,’ he said. 'You just go into a shell basically, and that’s what I’ve been like all my life.'

Richard said there wasn’t a day he remembers at the farm school when he wasn’t beaten. It was particularly bad for him because he was a chronic bedwetter, and he would be punished every time it happened and humiliated in front of the other children.

He said he felt powerless to stand up to those who treated him so badly.

‘I was only about six, for god’s sake – you can’t stand up against adults, can you? If I was a teenager, I would have been a bigger boy, I could have stood up for myself; but as a small child you can’t.’

When he was about 10, Richard and his siblings were sent back to England, and placed in care there. He carried the effects of his time in Australia as deep unhealed wounds.

As a teenager he started cutting himself, drank heavily and took drugs. He tried to kill himself and ended up in an asylum for two months. Richard said at the time he didn’t know what he was doing but now understands that he was trying to block out that part of his life.

‘It’s a thing that I can’t get out of my mind. It’s been with me all my life. I still have nightmares about it, even today with help.’

Richard has low self-esteem, which has led to poor life choices, including in his relationships. His fear of authority has been a lifelong problem in relation to work. He has strong homophobic feelings, and said he has great difficulty showing emotion. He is also diabetic, as a result of his former drinking, and has frequent debilitating panic attacks.

He is married to his third wife, and has several children, but described himself as sexually dysfunctional and a loner. He lives in a rural area of Europe so he doesn’t have to interact with people.

Richard said that while financial compensation would help with the cost of counselling, it was not his main focus. He feels strongly that stories like his need to be heard before the survivors all pass away, and that governments should be held accountable for what happened to him and others like him.

‘You could give me a million pounds or a million euros tomorrow, it would be lovely; but that won’t get away from the horror. You can never buy your freedom from that. You can never get rid of that trauma, it doesn’t matter what type of money you have. You can’t buy back your childhood.’

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