Seth’s mother died in the 1970s when he was still an infant. He and his siblings were raised by their dad, who’d been part of the Stolen Generations. As a child, Seth felt displaced both from the Aboriginal community for not being ‘black enough’ and from the non-Indigenous community for not being ‘white enough’ – but still recognised he was ‘black enough inside’.
From a young age Seth acted rebelliously and was in and out of children’s courts for various offences. Eventually he was removed from his father’s care, made a ward of the state and sent to a variety of residential facilities.
Seth ended up in juvenile detention on a few occasions for stealing cars and robbing houses. Often he would offend with young relatives and would be incarcerated with them. This was a positive thing as the boys were safer when they were in the institutions together.
At age 12 he was placed in a Perth hostel operated by the government. The houseparents were a married couple who had their own children. The husband was physically violent towards Seth.
There was an older and much bigger non-Aboriginal boy, Gareth, living at the hostel. Gareth raped Seth a number of times. Seth does not blame Gareth for this abuse, and believes he must have had something bad happen to him to have acted in this way when still a child himself.
A couple of years later Seth spent some time living with his father, although he was still a ward of the state. One of his father’s friends sexually abused him over a few months, and did the same to some of Seth’s young male relatives.
Most of Seth’s very limited schooling was undertaken in institutions, and his education was therefore severely affected. He taught himself literacy skills while in jail. He has self-harmed, has issues with alcohol and drug addiction, and has been homeless and slept on the streets.
Seth was also involved in the criminal justice system as an adult. Until recently, he’d never quite recognised the connection between the trauma in his childhood and his offending.
He was in a long-term relationship and had children, but was violent and not a good partner or father; he's now separated from his partner. After accepting he needed some help, he has now been engaged with a psychologist for 18 months.
It was only recently, after first disclosing the abuse to the Royal Commission, that he told his ex-partner about his experiences. Her initial response was minimising and dismissive – then she wanted to know why he hadn’t told her earlier. She has since become more understanding, and now has a better understanding of child sexual abuse and its impact.
His father’s friend is currently on trial for the sexual abuse against him and the other boys. It was hard for Seth to make a statement to police, but ultimately he found he was treated well and the process was good. After this, however, he was not kept informed of the matter’s progress, even when it was coming up to the court date.
In the past year or so Seth has been able to make significant changes in his life. He is involved with an Aboriginal organisation, obtaining a certificate of his Aboriginality, and becoming involved in cultural programs and a ‘dads’ group’. ‘We sit down, we have a yarn.’
Seth has now traced his family tree back over a century. ‘My children deserve to know who they really are.’ He has found that his pathway to deal with trauma has been the re-connecting with culture, cultural identity and to ‘feel good inside myself’.