‘The only way I can describe it is like a lawless town … adults and children … I can’t even remember if I had my own bed … There was no one to go to, to ask for help, to stand behind and feel safe. You were literally on your own and at that age, you know, you don’t understand when you’re giving someone oral sex. You don’t even know what it is.’
When Tyler was five, his father took him and his siblings on a train trip, and left them at a farm school in regional New South Wales. ‘I was sexually abused by adults and older boys at this home … I always thought, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m better than that”, and put it behind me, but things have a way of rearing their ugly head when you least expect’.
It was 18 months before their mother found them. She took one of Tyler’s siblings home, but he and his older brother were sent to a home run by the Salvation Army. They were at this home for three years before returning to live with their mother and her new partner.
At the Salvation Army home, Tyler met Captain Graham Charles. ‘The most evil man I have ever had the misfortune of being around. He incessantly beat me … This man ruined my life.’
Tyler recalled ‘two or three times, where he [Charles] had to come down and apologise in front of all the guys for caning me for the wrong thing, getting the wrong person … I think it was more of a personal thing’.
Sometimes, Tyler would escape for the day and go and sit by the nearby train line, before breaking back into the place, just to ‘sort of have time out, but I knew I couldn’t go anywhere’. He would daydream about jumping on a train, and heading off somewhere. ‘I left that place with such a hatred for the Salvation Army and uniform. It affected my life’.
What he finds particularly difficult to understand is that Charles had been in trouble in the 1960s for hurting children, and yet he was placed in charge of the home where Tyler and his brother lived in the 1970s.
‘That brought me to tears to find out that he’d already, you know, been raked over the coals, yet here he is, six, seven years later, in charge of kids again. He should have been kicked out.’
The emotional, sexual and physical abuse Tyler experienced as a child in the two homes has had a profound impact on his adult life. ‘I do stick to myself a lot. I don’t trust hardly anybody. Generally don’t like meeting people. I think the more people you meet, the more chance you got of things going wrong.’
Tyler told the Commissioner, ‘For the first 10 years, I’d say, from 16 to maybe … 25, my life … the only way I could explain it, it felt like I was thrown into a giant washing machine and I had no control on … where I was going and it seemed to be going in circles and it was just … just seemed like it was just never-ending. And everything changed when I met [my wife].’
Drugs and alcohol have been a problem for Tyler and his wife in the past. His wife commented, ‘I know Tyler experienced abuse in the home … then we sort of met and … I see the perpetual cycle … our children ended up in care from us neglecting them … and that was due to our drug addiction at the time, but … it was just like that cycle goes on again and … one of my biggest fears is like, how and when, as a society as a whole, do we put a stop to that?’
Tyler has tried to put the past behind him. ‘I tried to just forget about it, because I thought, well there’s nothing you can do about it. It happened back then … I think if I dwelled on the past, I’d be the most miserable, unhappy person going around, you know. I try not to think about it. These days, I think of what I can do myself, to make our lives better.’
He is currently awaiting a compensation payment of over $100,000 for the abuse he experienced at the farm school. His wife explained, ‘You know what I think’s even better than the money? That the government have had to actually admit that they got it wrong, and that they were responsible’.
Tyler added ‘It’s just … It’s so prolific everywhere. You see it all the time … TV, you look around, it’s everywhere. Why … I mean, I grew up without, you know, like, I didn’t hurt a soul. Why does it have to happen and you know, why does it even exist? It’s not natural. It’s not normal. It just baffles me’.