‘You’re the first person that I’ve discussed this with. I discussed it with my mother and I was beaten for it because she reckoned that I’d made this story up.’
In the early 1960s, when Shelby was in his early teens, his father decided to take him out of school. Shelby started work as a trainee in the Victorian government’s transport department, where he was soon befriended by an older worker.
‘He was a keen fisherman, I learnt, and he asked me would I like to go fishing ... Unbeknownst to me he was a … I can’t express the word but yes, he was a person that I trusted and he broke my trust …
‘He would sexually undress me … He would touch me, this sort of thing. I knew it wasn’t right. But somehow I thought he’d leave me, he’d get away from that. But he didn’t, he never ever did. And there would have been numerous occasions, quite numerous occasions that he did this.
‘He told me not to say anything because people wouldn’t believe me anyway, if I did tell them that. And that dovetailed into what my mother said to me – “Where are you getting all this from?” – and I got bitter with her too because she wouldn’t listen to me.'
‘My father never knew about it, I never discussed it with my father …’
Shelby now believes, if he had been able to tell his father, the sexual abuse would’ve stopped.
‘I wish I would’ve pursued the matter. I didn’t trust the police. Because if I’d gone to the police my mother would’ve been on to me then.’
After the abuse began, one of the other workers warned Shelby that the older man was known to prey on boys. ‘He told me that “This is what he does”. And I just palmed it off. He said, “Did he try it with you?” and I just said no but in actual fact, he had tried it …
‘You could not understand the stigma that was attached to it after a while when people begin to … you were teased in the job down there. There was 750 men worked down there, and you were teased. Very hard place …
‘I had no ego left to stand up for myself.’
As an adult, Shelby has had significant trust issues, particularly with women. He’s spent time in prison and attempted to end his life numerous times. He also became an alcoholic, ‘to try and push the memory back …
‘It’s always there ... and you can recall all this, and you can see the man standing over you.’
He told the Commissioner that children must always be in a safe environment, and must also be encouraged to speak up about any kind of abuse.
‘Make people aware of it … Don’t hold back.’