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Shannon's story

As a child, Shannon often ran away from home because his mother was physically abusive and often drunk. He became involved in petty crime with others and was eventually charged and made a ward of the state of Western Australian. He was 13 years old in the mid-1970s when sent to a children’s reception centre in Perth, more than 1,000 kilometres from his extended Aboriginal family.

Arriving there was a shock. ‘A lot of rules that I probably couldn’t cope with – well not cope with, didn’t want to cope with, you know. I suppose I was a young fella and I didn’t like authority much and schooling wasn’t my forte so I suppose I fell out a lot and it was hard to be Indigenous with non-Indigenous people as well. I didn’t have the mentality to speak their language or understand what they were talking about.’

After some time a foster placement was found with an aunt and uncle who were living in the Northern Territory. It was there that Shannon was first sexually abused. The uncle who abused him did so also to a female and a male cousin of Shannon’s. When Shannon told his aunt about the abuse, she didn’t believe him.

‘The only way I could get out of there was to steal something so I stole into one of my granny’s houses and took 60 cents, and that got me out of it.’

Shannon was sent to a hostel which he enjoyed although he couldn’t remember welfare workers visiting or asking after him. ‘I think they just kind of forgot about me’, he said. ‘I think I was lost in the system, I’m not sure. I didn’t really see much government people. I was put in the hostel, then I was put into another bloke’s care that also was an abuser and from there I just went on the streets because he eventually kicked me out of his place because I wouldn’t do what he wanted me to do. So he took everything that I had and put me out on the streets.’

Returning to his original home town, Shannon found his mother who told him to ‘eff off’.

‘The trauma is like, for people like me, I mean my mother, I presume, probably would have been abused when she was young as well. She had me at a young age, she was 15, 16.’

At 18, Shannon married but it hadn’t worked out and he’d taken to travelling around Australia. Two years earlier he’d ‘turned to male prostitution as well to make money’ and between the ages of 24 and 35 ‘had a few hiccups’, all along blocking out memories of the sexual abuse. He smoked marijuana and tried to end his life several times. When asked by hospital staff about his reasons for doing so he’d replied that it was because of a relationship breakdown.

He’d never had counselling but found the understanding of his current partner of 20 years his main support. She knew about the sexual abuse and ‘stuck with me’, Shannon said. They now lived with their children in the community where his aunt and uncle had once lived.

Shannon told the Commissioner that sexual abuse in the community was widespread. ‘There’s a ring of paedophiles in the community that are still there today and they seem to slip through the net’, he said. ‘And young people are trying – well, parents are trying – to take them to court and all that, but they seem to be getting off because of children not giving evidence. Even ones that have been convicted are back in community and still driving round with young kids in the car, hanging out with other paedophiles.’

The community had no permanent police presence which contributed to the difficulty people had in reporting allegations of child sexual abuse. Shannon said because of what he’d been through he could tell by some children’s body language that they were also being abused. ‘Four have been through the detective scenario of giving information and having the persons go to court [but they] get scared cause the parents you know, there’s a lot of peoples interrelated so they get threatened and stuff so they stop. They shut down.’

Some members of the community had tried to call attention to the connection between child sexual abuse and the high rate of youth suicide. Children as young as eight were smoking marijuana and trading sex for money.

‘Someone did voice it all. Quite a few mothers walked around the streets a few years ago about child abuse. The main person that voiced it has just got kicked out of the community and doesn’t come back ‘cause it just creates trouble for herself. She was trying to stand up and got ousted.’

Shannon said some child sex offenders were aged in their early to mid-20s. ‘I suppose I’m not making excuses for paedophiles but some young people can’t escape from the communities and all they have is training. They can’t escape from their family. They’re locked in it. So maybe they should close bigger communities. I mean they have done [it] to a couple of communities – bulldozed them. Communities that don’t have a future or don’t have any self or creative work in the community or, you know, that’s not going to be self-sufficient by making its own income should be closed.

‘Cause there’s no future there for these children now that are coming up the ladder. They’re going to see what’s out there and that’s drugs, abuse on you know – women abuse, men abuse, alcohol, drugs, sexual, mentally and they’re going to grow up, ‘cause you’ve got kids like this who are in Year 1 and talking like adults. And they know what’s happening there in the community; they know who’s belting who. I think things like that should be done.

‘I really hope you can do some recommendations that can come to fruition.’

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