Shad grew up in rural New South Wales in the 1970s and 1980s with his father and stepmother. His father was extremely physically and emotionally abusive. Shad and his brother were regularly beaten, starved and locked in the shed for days on end. When the family moved to Queensland, Shad’s father built an enclosure under the house with two beds in it, where Shad and his brother were tied down on a nightly basis. Shad was also sexually abused by the father of his stepmother – abuse that Shad’s father had arranged. Shad was also sexually abused by his brother when they were children.
When Shad was 11 he was taken into foster care for the first time, possibly because authorities became aware of the abuse. ‘The bruising was pretty hard to miss’, Shad told the Commissioner. Shortly afterwards, however, Shad was returned to his family.
At age 12, Shad was taken to a Uniting Church home, which ‘most of the time was all right’. However, 18 months later he was returned to his father who, in the meantime, had become a Christian minister. The abuse continued. Shad told the Commissioner that the police knew about it but did nothing.
In high school Shad was so far behind in his education there was no chance of catching up. He recalls spending most of his time at school ‘being an idiot’. When he was 14 he was kicked out of school. He ran away but was found the next day by police. Shad disclosed the various forms of abuse he suffered and showed the police his bruises. The police returned Shad to his father who arranged for him to live with his stepmother’s father – Shad’s previous sexual abuser.
Instead, Shad lived on the streets in various cities and towns across Australia. He was arrested for car theft and sent to a youth detention centre in Queensland, which he described as ‘hell’. Sexual abuse perpetrated by both staff and residents was common. On one occasion Shad was sexually abused by three officers at a time. Another resident, known as a sexual abuser, paid cash to one of the officers so that he could share a room with Shad. When Shad fought back he was locked in a dark, windowless room. To this day, Shad is terrified of the dark.
The third time Shad was sent to this detention centre he met Auntie Kath, an Aboriginal elder who was very supportive.
When Shad was 14 or 15 he was sent to a boys’ home run by the De La Salle Brothers. ‘Within the first week I’m getting touched up by a Brother in the morning. Within two weeks I’m getting drugged and raped in the Brother’s room. And then three weeks I’m getting beaten and … forced to give one of the cottage fathers oral sex.’ Shad was there for about four weeks. When his first week of leave came up Shad ran away. He told his Family Services officer about the abuse who told Shad he was a ‘compulsive liar’.
Shad was taken to a different youth detention centre. On his first day he was stripped naked, hosed with a fire hose and made to walk naked down a long walkway in front of inmates and staff. That day he was also visited by police who made him sign a document stating that he would not attempt to charge his previous alleged abusers – including his father. Signing the document also meant Shad was eligible for the Level 1 redress compensation payment of $5,000. He didn’t go for the Level 2 payment, which was much higher, because it involved an interview process.
On his second day at the detention centre there was a significant riot which ‘was one of the scariest fucking experiences of my life’, Shad told the Commissioner. He was cannon-hosed, beaten up by guards and inmates and witnessed another inmate being gang raped. Shad tried to stop it but was beaten up. He was 16 years old.
On the third day Shad got bail and was sent to a boys’ home. There, he was sexually abused by other inmates on a regular basis. Shad was also told that the officers used to watch it all on camera.
Nearly six months later, at the age of 17, Shad was sent to an adult prison. He was housed amongst the worst and most prolific sex offenders in the state. There he was sexually assaulted on a regular basis in situations that were considered, by his perpetrators, to be consensual. They weren’t.
He told a psychologist about it who said, ‘You’re a homosexual. You probably enjoy it’. This person is currently in a very senior position within Corrective Services.
Shad has seen a letter, seemingly from him, requesting that he be placed in an adult prison. He says it was forged and is not even his handwriting.
Shad is serving a lengthy sentence for a serious crime he committed when he was 18. He has spent his entire adult life in jail. When the Commissioner asked if there was a proper understanding in the system, and the system’s records, of his past, Shad replied, ‘No. Not even close. They just have “childhood abuse issues” and that’s it’.
Last year, Shad attempted to make a claim against the boys’ home run by the De La Salle Brothers. The home refused on the grounds that Shad didn’t tell anyone about the abuse at the time – even though separate claimants had made similar statements about the same institution in relation to the same perpetrators. Their lawyers were also supplied with Shad’s Corrective Services record, which Shad found frustrating. His own lawyers dropped the case due to a lack of evidence. Shad is now pursuing matters with a legal aid service. However, he finds progress difficult as, within prison, there are few resources.
Shad reflects that the Department of Family Services really let him and others down. When he was working the streets at the age of 15, he shouldn’t have been arrested for solicitation. He should have been helped. He feels strongly that children should not be put into ‘baby prisons’.
‘Neglect is an abuse. Ignorance is an abuse … Someone’s really fucking dropping the ball there.’