Stephan James's story

‘The way I look at it, [the homes] made me like this so they can deal with it.’

Stephan was raised in an unhappy home. He described his parents as ‘lazy gamblers’ who were often violent. In the late 1980s when he was nine, Stephan’s parents ‘gave’ him to the Department of Community Services (DOCS). He was annoyed that his siblings stayed with his parents.

As a ward of the state, Stephan was moved to a different home in Sydney every three months. He frequently changed schools and found it hard to make friends. His family never visited him and his parents never told him why he was placed in state care.

‘I’ve often asked. Me and my dad have had several fist fights over it. I tried getting it out of Mum but she wouldn’t listen to me … She said she had nothing to apologise for and punched through the wall.’

Stephan has no memory of his time in care. He doesn’t recall anything about all the institutions he was placed in, or remember his caseworkers. Stephan only knew he was sexually abused because it was recorded in his file. It angers him because he doesn’t know who the perpetrator was, or remember the abuse at all.

When he was 10, he was placed in an institution in Sydney for children with behavioural problems. His caseworker noticed a change in his behaviour when he was visited and took him to the local doctor for treatment. The doctor confirmed that he had been sexually abused.

Stephan believes his file states that the police were informed of the abuse, but no action was taken. He was moved to another institution shortly after the abuse occurred. To this day, the perpetrator has not been identified.

As a child and teenager, Stephan drank alcohol and smoked marijuana a lot. He had difficulty managing his anger, which got him into trouble. He described himself as a ‘firecracker’ of a kid who couldn’t concentrate or sit still. He tried learning at school, but he found it stressful and didn’t finish his education.

Over the years, Stephan lost contact with his family and finds mixing with people difficult. He has spent extended periods of time in custody for crimes he committed and has been diagnosed with antisocial behavioural disorder, attention deficit disorder, multiple personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. He believes all the disorders are ‘crap’ and doesn’t see the point in counselling.

In the early 2000s Stephan tried to take civil action against the government. He had legal support for his victims of crime compensation claim, but his case was unsuccessful. Since then, he has attempted to pursue legal action several times but no further action has been taken. He has ‘given up’ on trying again and believes it is too late to report the abuse to the police.

Stephan told the Commission that all he wanted was to get some land and ‘buy a house for my kids and live on it so I can get some peace. That’s all I want’.

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