Samuel Louis's story

‘I spent four and a half decades trying to forget it. The last two weeks I’ve spent trying to recall it so I could come here and be as open and as honest as I could.’

By the time he was 13 years old in the late 1960s Samuel was getting into trouble. He’d been living with his grandmother in Queensland and barely knew his parents and siblings. Samuel was a smart kid, but also a bit ‘wild’. Caught stealing, he was sent to a boys’ home in Brisbane for a few months.

‘I done the wrong thing to go to institutions, but I think institutions twisted me. The amount of time I spent in them’, Samuel told the Commissioner. ‘I was put somewhere that was supposed to make me better, but at the end of the day I think, made me worse.’

One of the dormitory supervisors at the home was Mr Clarke. ‘I used to see kids sitting on his lap. Kids that weren’t coping and things like that, and I thought, “Oh, he’s a sort of a nice guy”.’

Late one night Samuel asked permission to go to the toilet. ‘When I went back and got back into bed he sat on the edge of my bed and started sucking my penis.’

‘I was just frozen. I didn’t know what to do or what not to do and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t tell anybody. I didn’t know who to tell, I didn’t know what to say.’

About a month later Clarke cornered Samuel in the shower room and forced him to ‘return the favour’.

For the first time in his life, but not the last, Samuel escaped from custody. He was picked up after a few days and sent to a higher security home run by the Salvation Army. It was run by Major Austen. ‘That was where I first experienced “pants down, bend over” and wack. He was a pretty violent person.’

After further escapes Samuel found himself in a state-run detention centre to the west of Brisbane. ‘That had a horrendous reputation for violence. That’s where you learnt to stand up. Stand up or be abused.’

Samuel argues he was already being hardened and his future shaped by this treatment. ‘Other people see things that happen, and then once they see someone abused [that person] becomes a victim – and they’re a victim for the rest of their lives through those institutions. They become preyed upon.’

Samuel ran away to South Australia when he was 15 and was caught after a break and enter. He was sent on remand to a ‘training centre’, where he was again sexually abused. A young sports supervisor there, who seemed ‘a pretty nice guy’, singled out the interstate inmates for special favours. He offered to take them to the movies, which Samuel was excited about.

‘Until he said, “It costs ya”. And the cost was that you had to give him a head job … there was a bribe involved. And kids being kids, you’d already been sexually abused, I thought, “I’ve been through this. What’s the difference?”’

Samuel went to the movies, and paid the price. ‘I was sodomised, and everything.’

Samuel escaped again and tried his luck in Western Australia. He offended again, and this time was sent to the juvenile section of a notorious adult prison south of Perth. ‘Got bashed, got bashed, got bashed.’ Samuel was sexually abused in the toilets there. He tried complaining to one of the guards and was told, ‘That’s what happens in fucking jail, mate’.

‘The juvenile yard was like a butcher’s shop. If you didn’t survive you got cut up.’

Samuel took part in his first armed robbery when he was 17 and was sent back to the same prison, this time in the adult section. A large older inmate was sexually abusing many of the younger prisoners there. When it was Samuel’s turn Samuel head-butted him and tried a punch. He was smashed to the ground and knocked unconscious. But when Samuel awoke he found his attacker had been bashed senseless too; other inmates had come to Samuel’s aid.

‘They said, “You didn’t do any good but at least you had a go”.’

‘The unfortunate part of that is I felt like a part of the family there and that’s where I wanted to come, to the top of that tree. And I made the top of that tree in criminality, and once I got there and looked down, I knew what that tree was all about. I aspired to great heights, made those great heights.’

‘I joined the university of crime.’

Samuel spent the next 35 years in and out of prison in several states. He has many convictions for armed robbery and assault, and serious violent crimes.

Remarkably, Samuel has been able to turn his life around. Last time he was released, in the late 2000s, he was determined to change his ways. ‘I got a job the day I got out … for 30 dollars a day. What could I do in a work capacity after all?’

‘It’s pretty hard to be a squarehead. This is a tough life.’

Samuel persisted with work, but life on the outside was a struggle. ‘I’d hide in a cupboard. Just stay in there an hour, a couple of hours. Until I felt that I got some element of control back.’ Eventually better paid work came along, and then Samuel was able to build his own workplace, which he is still managing.

Samuel owes much to his wife, Collette. They had become friends while Samuel was in prison, and Collette waited decades before they could marry and be together. She took control of the family finances and helped solve Samuel’s long-term drinking and gambling problems by choking the flow of money to him.

‘It’s a beautiful life, when you can live life emotionless, it’s great. The unfortunate part of it is you don’t feel love. But you don’t feel hate. You don’t feel nothing. It’s a plateau. And then, when she brought the shutters down … I had to learn how to live emotionally again. Wow, wasn’t that some turmoil.’

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