Sam Joseph's story

As a child Sam was regularly sexually abused by Donald, his foster brother who was about four years older than him. Nearly 30 years after the abuse stopped, Sam was distressed to hear from his foster sister that most of his siblings in his foster family had been sexually abused – by Donald and another brother, who was adopted.

In the early 1970s Sam, who has a slight intellectual disability, was placed in care as soon as he was born. His mother used to drink and was unable to look after him. After about two years, Sam was fostered by the Lords, a non-Indigenous family in Queensland. The Lords had children of their own but the family was very large as they had adopted several other children.

The Lords were 'well to do' and well known to the department as being suitable foster parents. Mrs Lord, however, was violently strict with the children who were often flogged. The times when Mr Lord tried to intervene would result in Mr and Mrs Lord having an argument.

Donald used to touch Sam sexually while Sam was in bed trying to sleep. The abuse started when Sam was four and stopped when he was 13. By then Donald was about 17.

Reading from a statement, Sam said: 'Every time I complained to Mum I was called a liar.

'The impact of abuse on me throughout my childhood was quite traumatic emotionally, mentally and physically. I made so many reports to the department but my voice was not heard especially in regards to other children being cared for by the foster parents at the time of my placement, particularly sexual abuse. I witnessed the abuse first hand but every time the department would investigate my foster parents somehow managed to sweet talk the department on every occasion. Even my school made numerous notifications to the CAPS unit above the Area Office.'

Sam found it hard to make friends as a child.

'Felt very alone. Like, they'd [kids at school] ask me "Oh where did you get that mark from?" and stuff like that. Or they'd want to touch me and I'd freak, that kind of thing … or I'd cry. I'd sit there and cry on me own.'

However, growing up, Sam had the 'added benefit of having Indigenous families around, which was good, so I was still connected to my community'.

At 15, after the death of his foster father whom he loved, Sam ran away from home. When he was found, he was placed in a boys' emergency shelter. At 16, his new childcare officer made arrangements for Sam to meet his natural mother.

As Sam wrote in his statement: 'It was a surreal experience to finally meet my mother after all those years and to have a re-connection of relationships as a mother and son also trying to reconnect with my siblings who were also placed in foster care with different families. It was a weird experience for me and my biological family getting to know each other for the first time.'

Sam's mother doesn't drink anymore but is very ill. He hasn't spoken about the childhood abuse with any members of his natural family. He hasn’t spoken much about it to anyone else except a counsellor he saw for a few years when he was in his early 20s.

Sam also has serious illnesses and has not been able to work. He has not sought compensation but believes a payout would help him in the future. He would also like an apology from DOCS for not keeping him safe.

Sam has a good support network around him, and has continued counselling to overcome the effects of the childhood abuse. He has become an advocate for kids in care. Recently he was involved with childcare officer training. It went very well and he has been asked to return and facilitate again.

He is in contact with his foster siblings and encouraged them also to come and speak to the Royal Commission.

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