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Teddy's story

It was four days before baby Teddy was found, in a box by the side of the road in suburban Melbourne. It was the late 1960s, and his teenage mother had put him there shortly after he was born.

He was made a state ward, and placed in foster care with the Campbell family, fundamentalist Christians with conservative views. The Campbells’ home was a violent one, and they treated Teddy as the ‘whipping boy’.

If his bed creaked during the night, Mr Campbell would beat him. When he was young and played with matches, Campbell flogged him badly.

His older foster siblings would dob him in for various things, knowing he would be physically punished. Violence was so normalised that on his 16th birthday his foster brother took him out, and together they beat up two men on the street.

Teddy was also victimised for his gender non-conformity. ‘From an early age, I expressed transgender tendencies, and that was also a great shame, and I went through absolute hell through all of that, because I’m now going against all their Christian moralities.’

The family opposed homosexuality on religious grounds, and took his gender expression as an indication he was gay. The department ‘were fine with it, the department actually tried to tell the Campbells that it’s not an abnormal behaviour,’ but the Campbells declared ‘we’re not going to have any dirty faggots’.

‘Their fear in me becoming a homosexual ... was so great, that I was shown other ways with particular ladies, if you know what I mean. That this is what you do, this is what you don’t do.’

Teddy began drinking excessively at the age of 12, and became increasingly angry and aggressive. He left school the next year and found a job. He continued to drink and began misusing drugs. ‘The whole community thought I was an insane weirdo.’

Teddy described his foster father as a ‘paedophile’. ‘By the time I was 17 and managed to get out of the household, because I’d been touched and fondled and beaten, I had no concept of boundaries ... I’m not one to do that myself, but I’ve been raped, I’ve been manipulated.'

A few years after he left the Campbells, he met his birth mother. She told him he was conceived as a result of incest. Devastated and confused by this revelation, he became angrier and more violent. He started hanging around gangs, committed crimes and has spent a lot of time in jail.

In his 30s, he received a serious health diagnosis and had a breakdown. It was then he started dealing with his background, and obtained counselling.

Some counsellors have been great, but he feels others could not cope with what he told them. As well as dealing with the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of his childhood, he began to further explore his gender identity.

Teddy recently obtained his departmental file, which was traumatic to read. His early problems with alcohol are recorded, as well as the department wanting to ‘get Mr Campbell in to see a sexual psychologist’.

It was also noted on his file that the Campbells were assessed only as short-term carers, and Teddy recalls them telling him it was a temporary arrangement and he could go at any time. He also remembers them being angry as he got older and they received less payment, and feeling like he was solely a source of income to them.

The sexual abuse was never reported to police, and Campbell has since ‘shot himself out of rage’. Teddy is currently being assisted by a solicitor in regards to a compensation claim.

Teddy has severed ties with both his foster family and his natural family, after recognising it was damaging for him to continue contact.

He still thinks of Mrs Campbell as his mother, and does not wish to see the family held to account for what happened to him when he lived with them. Even though he has had to accept that his foster father was a paedophile, ‘I just can’t hate, I won’t allow myself to hate, ‘cause I’ll end up like them’.

Teddy told the Royal Commission he believes ‘what we need is to stop learning this witch-burning hate mentality’, and paedophiles must be able ‘to comfortably go and seek help, without the fear of that sort of retribution. Because all you’re doing is pushing them underground.’

Although Teddy still feels rage about his childhood, he has learned to manage this using mindfulness, and by being appreciative of small things and moments. He has a very good friend who helps him when he feels depressed, and has put a lot of time and energy ‘into finding a truth without hate’.

Addressing his gender has also been beneficial. ‘I embrace my gender a lot more, my transgender – and that’s my next journey, however that pans out.’

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