Rusty was five years old in the early 1990s when his parents separated and his father moved away. Growing up in the Northern Territory, Rusty witnessed his father trying to run his mother over with a car and other violent incidents, and believes this influenced his anti-social tendencies later in life.
Rusty’s grandmother was part of the Stolen Generation, and as a fair-skinned Aboriginal boy he often had trouble being accepted by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. When Rusty was 13 his father came back into his life, and that same year he went into juvenile detention for the first time.
‘He was cooking meth and I pretty much learned from him to cook meth before I was even 15. And that’s part of the reason I think I was in and out of juvenile detention, stealing money for precursors and things like that. And then once I was in the system I pretty much couldn’t get out. It was a revolving door, around and around.’
Rusty said that the first institution he was placed in was, ‘pardon my words, a shit hole. When you’d play up they’d put you in a tin shed in the middle of the field in the hot sun, nothing but a lino floor. They’d leave you there for three or four days or a week. And just a corrugated iron shed with a padlock on it’.
As a young boy, Rusty showed great promise as an athlete. He ‘had a chance to represent Australia, and then got back on the drugs and went downhill’.
When he was 14 Rusty was incarcerated in a centre where the age of the inmates ranged between nine and 18. One of the correctional officers, Kathy, would often come and visit him when she was on night shift.
‘To begin with she’d come in … and she’d sit on the bed and talking and that. And she’d lie down next time. Come in, there’d be a note.’
Kathy, who was in her 40s at the time, began sexually abusing Rusty not long after he arrived at the centre, using small treats to entice sexual favours.
‘She’d bring you things down at night time when she was on the night shift. She’d bring you Milo and biscuits and things like that.’
Rusty said that it was well known in the centre that Kathy was having sex with inmates, but nothing was ever done about it. ‘She actually was under investigation for one of the other children there and nothing came of it. And then it happened again.’
‘At the time I guess I was just confused. I didn’t really understand whether it was wrong or right. And then over the time that I was there and it kept happening then I just thought it was normal. Then thinking about it now but, it was shit to be honest.’
Kathy continued to abuse Rusty until he turned 18 and was released from the centre. He’s spent the past 10 years in and out of adult prisons, often struggling with drug dependency. Although he dropped out of school in Year 8, Rusty was able to complete the equivalent of Years 10 and 11 while incarcerated, as well as his trade qualification.
Rusty is extremely proud of his three children. They give him the incentive to get out of the prison system once and for all. ‘I believe I can turn my life around from here. I do have some plans for when I get out to make an honest living …
‘The main reason I thought about bringing this up was my daughter. She’s about to turn 13 you know, and she’s pretty much the age I was when I was in juvenile detention and that. And my sons are 10 and eight, and I’d hate for them to go through pretty much the same thing.’
As a result of the abuse, Rusty cannot tolerate being in the same room as sex offenders, particularly paedophiles, and feels protective over vulnerable people. ‘I don’t like standover tactics and things like that, especially for old people or young people. Kids coming into the system and that, I’d rather show them the right way to do it …
‘At the time I didn’t really think it was bad or anything like that, but now sitting here, thinking about if it was my daughter and it was a 40-year-old man, you know, I’d be quite upset …
‘It feels like something was taken from me, I guess.’