‘I was born in … Queensland … We lived in tin shacks on the river and I remember all the workers used to come in and drink. My father … was an alcoholic. He worked hard and he drank a lot.’
Terrence’s parents were separated, and his mother was trying to work full-time and look after her sister, who had mental health issues, so Terrence was placed in care. ‘She would not have been able to find work with me clinging to her, and plus she was the mother and father to us …’
In the late 1960s, when Terrence was about eight or nine he was sent to a Catholic children’s home run by the Sisters of Mercy. He was there for about a year, before his mother came and took him to live with her on an Aboriginal mission. ‘I have made a lot of good friends on [the mission] and I also found out about my people.’
Terrence recalled that ‘the nuns used to bash us kids around. I also remember a nun … would muck around with the boys … She mucked around with me in the showers. She would touch me where she should not be touching me … I would see her do it to other boys too … This nun tried to get me to do things to her, but I wouldn’t’.
Terrence was also sexually abused by two older boys in his dormitory. ‘[They] would come into my dorm at night when the lights were out and they would come to my bed and interfere with me. These two were very sly, so I don’t know if they did it to anyone else. [They] also used to belt me around.’
There was some talk amongst the children about the older boys. ‘Little mates telling me, “Don’t go where them … boys is. Something will happen to ya”. But they’d come over and stand over us for our toys as well … [We got] knocked around [by the] bigger boys.’
Terrence was too scared to tell anyone about the sexual abuse by the nun and the two boys. ‘I have actually been too scared to tell anyone about it until now … If I did say anything, I would get more bashings … The nuns … would probably think I was telling fibs. It would have been my word against two white fellas too.’
Even when Terrence was living at the Aboriginal mission, he didn’t tell anyone, ‘because of the stigma, and I might be called gay or something like that’.
Terrence’s education suffered while he was living in the children’s home. ‘The nuns would belt us with a really thick ruler, or they would shame me up by putting me in the corner. If I got a question wrong the nun would put me in the corner with a dunce hat on.’
Terrence told the Commissioner, ‘I took up drinking and smoking at a young age … 15 or 16. The drink was a way I tried to cope with what had happened to me as a child. I recall alcohol was everywhere in [the mission]’. He gave up drinking about 20 years ago, and smoking about a year ago, but the alcohol and cigarettes took their toll, and Terrence now has severe heart problems.
When Terrence applied to the Queensland redress scheme for compensation, he received the Level 1 payment of $7,000. No one told him that he could apply for the Level 2 payment. ‘It was slack on their part … However, no amount of money can cover what happened to us.’
Terrence has never sought counselling. ‘It has never felt right for me to talk to anyone and I also thought I would get nowhere. I thought people would just hear my story and just chuck it away.’
Instead of counselling, Terrence receives a lot of support from his family. ‘They see little signs that I’m down and out or whatever, then they pick me up … They got me to where I am now.’
Terrence came forward to the Royal Commission because, ‘I just felt it was all right to bring it out a bit … Get it out of my way … get it out. [Stop] it happening to other kids … get it off my chest before I kick the bucket, because I’m a bit crook at the moment.’