Victor Peter's story

As a child in a Melbourne primary school, Victor wasn’t able to talk about his Aboriginal heritage. ‘We were told to keep that a secret and I never sort of knew why’, he said. ‘I remember one of the kids brought an Aboriginal skull to school for show and tell, and no one sort of batted an eyelid.

'But now looking back, thinking of the politics of those days, the referendum in ’67 and so on, that’s why we were told to keep all that a secret.’

In the early 1970s, Victor was 11 and selling newspapers on a Melbourne street corner when the Catholic Church opposite him caught fire. After the fire brigade left, Victor went over and found the charred remains of the church’s donations plate in a drawer, and pocketed the money. While he was still on the property, a priest found him and said that anyone who removed anything from the church should be reported, and that a video camera would have recorded any theft.

The following night, Victor knocked on the presbytery door and told the priest that he’d ‘found all this money’.

‘I stepped just inside the door, he shut the door and then he put his hand down my pants. And I was sort of scared ‘cause I’ve stolen the money and I didn’t know what was going on. And he put his hand down my pants at the front but he stuck his finger in my backside and I didn’t know what to do.

'So he let me go and he told me not to tell anyone, but also the fact that I pinched the money made me feel if I dobbed him in, he’d dob me in. And so I basically, it wasn’t long after that I give the paper job away.’

Soon after the assault, Victor moved to a bush block his parents owned out of Melbourne. He lived by himself for about a year, tending a mob of horses. His parents would travel from the city to check on him and bring supplies.

‘They used to bring me up food and that each weekend, Mum and Dad. Each week or each fortnight. But I used to sort of cry myself to sleep every night, I was petrified of a couple of things - one of what had happened, but then [also] I was living on me own and I was scared of the dark.’

When Victor was in his early teens, he got a job at the meatworks. He told them he was 21, because at that age you were allowed to ‘use a knife and you got the better pay’. When he left that job, he moved around for a while, and had his first child in his late teens.

By this time, Victor had already committed minor criminal offences. He began working on the docks where he became involved in further crime, and ended up in maximum security prison in Melbourne. There he learnt to grow marijuana, and as soon as he was released, he ‘set up an operation growing dope and all this stuff’.

Victor has been incarcerated several times, and spoke to the Commissioner from jail where he is serving a sentence for child sex offences.

‘Funnily enough or sadly enough, whatever you want to say, I did exactly the same as what happened to me. I did the same to a couple of girls and I sort of, I dunno why or how, I dunno. Well I know why – ‘cause I’m stupid, but it’s sort of a bit weird thinking back that I did the same thing.’

After he was charged, Victor paid a large sum to a lawyer who told him ‘we’ve got this in the bag’, but in the end ‘put up no defence at all’.

While in jail, Victor has worked as a peer support worker, and has studied an undergraduate degree that would help him with an appeal against his custodial sentence.

Looking back, Victor said that he saw ‘a fork in the road’ on the day of his was abused. He went from ‘caring to not caring’.

‘It was nearly like you flick a switch, thinking back. You know, Mum and Dad were both working, we had tea together every night and had a few chooks and this and that, but that was like yeah, like just a complete change.

'When I think back, I started misbehaving and that instantly and sort of, I didn’t want to go to school, didn’t want to do me paper job so, they probably thought by sending me up the bush to be with the horses, that might make me wake up to myself or behave meself or whatever.’

‘I never told anyone and this is only the second time I’ve mentioned [the abuse]. I think it had a profound effect on me all me life … I sort of didn’t give a shit about anyone and I was getting into trouble. I didn’t care what it was.

'You know, a copper’d pull me up, I’d tell him where to go or I’d pinch things or whatever. Not making any excuses, but I just didn’t care about anything or anyone ‘cause I thought … nobody helped me.’

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