Ron was born in the late 1970s in regional New South Wales. His parents divorced when he was young and he spent his childhood moving from one parent’s house to the other and sometimes to his aunt’s place as well. He remembers growing up on the beach, being a school prefect, and playing football at a representative level. It was a ‘pretty good life’, he said. ‘Then I got into strife.’
In his early teens, Ron and his surfing mates were charged with smoking pot on the beach. A year later, ‘it all changed’ when he got into trouble for stealing cars, entered the out-of-home care system, and left school before completing Year 10. ‘My neighbourhood was not the best area, and our peers that we looked up to, everyone was stealing cars and carrying on … smoking pot and carrying on and drinking.’
In the 1990s, Ron spent time in a number of juvenile justice centres in Sydney and on the Central Coast. When he entered the first facility he was small and short for his age, and looked like a young boy. He also remembers that one of the officers ‘did some queer stuff’ to him the first time he was searched.
While at this first facility, Ron was sexually abused during a movie night. ‘We used to get food sent in, little parcels, and you get munchies for movie night, and I remember I got some pot sent in in chips, and we were smoking pot.’ Ron ‘got grabbed by the hair’, dragged out of the room, and searched by a bloke who ‘propositioned him’. Then some ‘weird shit happened’ and Ron ‘spun out’.
‘I shit myself, wasn’t sure about what was happening. I got searched, and then I could sort of feel it,’ Ron said. It was his ‘first fucken gay interaction, and I shit myself. It didn’t go on the whole way’.
Ron said that when he was transferred to a second facility ‘that sort of shit followed me’. ‘People knew’ and laughed at him. ‘It was like I was a fucken poofter, and I was blown out, out of my mind.’
‘Nervous’ about going over the abuse he had already outlined in a written statement, Ron said that the ‘same shit happened. Same fucken shit. Not shit, heaps worse, and that’s it. Like I’ve already told you, I’ve already told ya. What do you want to know again for?’
Ron was also stressed when he spoke about the sexual abuse he experienced while working at a dairy. ‘It was fucken hectic. Bit of shit happened there too. That old bitch used to fucken lock us in, like, there’s a chick called the matron … and shit happened there, and shit happened up at the dairy … I don’t want to fucken say it to you.’
While in juvenile detention, Ron ‘wasn’t violent’. However, he started carrying weapons, was later charged with assault and other offences, and has spent most of his adult life in prisons across Australia.
‘Most people are scared of jail but these days it’s my little home base. That’s my crutch. Like I go that hard out there. I sort of come in for a rest again, for a tune up.’
For many years, Ron used drugs such as speed and heroin to hide and suppress his pain. ‘I’ve used drugs in jail, like you know it’s an ongoing thing … because of like guilt and fucken shit feelings, you know.’ Ron realised that using drugs held him back. ‘Whatever I put my hand to, I go good at it, but on drugs, no matter what you touch, you can’t go good.’
Ron said ‘I never thought I’d be on this side of the fence’. However, in the last year, prison has provided Ron with an environment in which he can disclose his experience of child sexual abuse for the first time. The prison’s Pathways program, which is helping Ron to examine his drug use and think before he acts, has also helped him to open ‘all this history’. ‘I suppressed shit for so long, and I think it needed to come out,’ he said. ‘God it’s fucken heavy shit … I’ve bottled shit up for years.’
The sexual abuse Ron experienced was ‘putrid’ and ‘sick shit’, and making his first disclosure has been ‘a big massive thing’ and ‘pretty full on’. However, he said that he is now hopeful that ‘I’ll be able to go “I won’t need drugs” … I fucken go through spells … I can have drugs and everything and not touch them, I don’t give a fuck … Sometimes I might have a blow up. Since this come up [his session with the Royal Commission] I’ve had a couple of blow outs, I’ve had a couple of violent spurts, but I think I’m getting better’.
In recent months, Ron has also been speaking to a counsellor in general terms about the abuse. ‘I had a blow out with her … I went nuts because I’ve never had to, like um, a lot of heavy shit, you know.’ He has also told his family, but says he will never tell the police.
Ron is now in his late 30s and looking forward to being released from jail in a few years’ time. He has recently engaged lawyers in an effort to pursue compensation, and is supported by his ‘stable’ girlfriend who visits him in jail and is a ‘good role model’ for his children.