Tate was raised in suburban Sydney in the 1980s, an ‘average’ child with a passion for music and art. Growing up at the beach he joined the local surf lifesaving club, and was a ‘nipper boy’ from the ages of four to 13.
When Tate was 11 years old, his parents were in the process of ending their marriage. There was ‘a lot of shouting’ happening in the family home, which he found tough to endure. Nippers provided a break from his home life, and he told the Commissioner the only place he felt safe was ‘in the water’.
One day Tate and his friends hung back at the surf club after nippers had ended. They went ‘exploring’ and found themselves in the older members section. He discovered a shower block on the roof and went inside.
Tate was sexually abused by an older man who was waiting in the shower block. He couldn’t remember if any of his friends were around during the abuse and believes he ‘blacked out’.
He doesn’t know why he went back to the same shower block a week later after nippers. The man was there again, and sexually abused him a second time.
‘I can’t even remember how it happened. It just happened. One minute I’m in the shower and the next minute he’s just there … It was definitely a couple of times because there was one instance it was just him.
‘We went up there a few times [that day], I remember it was a 20 cent shower, five or 10 minute shower thing. So I was always asking Dad for 20 cent pieces … I’ve got a very clear image of his face, but a lot of the time [the man] said, “Don’t look at me”.’
Tate didn’t tell anyone about what happened. He felt that he couldn’t report the abuse to his parents because they were constantly fighting and he didn’t want to upset them.
Not long after the abuse had occurred, Tate became close to another boy at school. He disclosed a little bit of what happened at the surf club and felt comfortable with the boy. On one occasion after school the boy ‘stayed over’ at his house and said he wanted to show Tate ‘more tricks’.
Tate talked about the experience with the boy with his other classmates. He said that most of his peers thought he was ‘weird’ and he became an ‘outcast’ instantly. The boy left the school shortly after, which made Tate feel very alone. He was also terribly confused about what happened and why it happened. His parents divorced and he was moved to another school in a different suburb.
High school was a difficult time for Tate, as he found it hard to fit in because everyone thought he was gay and he was often bullied. He used to punch himself in the nose or headbutt walls to get out of class and into the sick bay.
Tate became rebellious and would often accept ‘dares’ from his peers, and would hurt himself ‘for their satisfaction and enjoyment’. He graduated high school without disclosing the details of the sexual abuse he had experienced, but thinks that if ‘someone had asked the right questions’ he ‘probably would have spoken about it’.
After school Tate enrolled in a TAFE course and formed a band with his friends, wanting to pursue a music career as well as a stable job. Soon he had a steady relationship, a car and an investment property. He also attended a local church weekly.
However, Tate was troubled and ‘saw himself’ in some of the kids he was around during church services. He said he tried to talk to the youth leader of the church about his ‘issues’ but found that the leader ‘wasn’t there’ for him. Without warning, Tate quit his job, broke up with his girlfriend and left the country to work overseas.
Tate worked as a counsellor for children while he was overseas. After he was dismissed from his job he returned to Australia and became a child care assistant. In recent years he began to sexually abuse children himself in his workplace.
‘My heart was beating in my head at the time of me offending. Once that stopped, there was this incredible hatred and anger at myself to the point where I was – I was never diagnosed as depressed – but I had a very heavy depression come over. I looked for arguments at home, with my girlfriend. I’d sell my car, I tried and just needed to stop and start again. It would take me a couple of weeks to come back around to be normal happy Tate again. But then happy Tate would turn to this other Tate and a couple of months later I’d offend.’
Tate was charged with several offences of child sexual abuse and is currently in jail for his crimes. ‘There was always something, a trigger, a thought of what happened. Even right here in jail. One bloke snuck up behind me in the shower, I just fell apart. Poked me with a broomstick, you know … But little things like that, little things like people horsing around and grabbing me from behind, it just brings everything back.’
He spends most of his time in his cell reflecting on his behaviour, and has feelings of self-hatred. He sees a counsellor regularly and has been on medication.
‘I don’t want to draw a link between my abuse and what I’ve done because I don’t feel that that’s an excuse. I don’t like excuses. I was an adult and I made the wrong decisions and I get that. I have to wear that, which is why I gave absolutely everything to the detectives at the start.’