When he first contacted the Royal Commission, Walton reported being physically and sexually abused in two government-run boys’ homes in New South Wales in the 1950s. But when he spoke to the Commissioner he was seriously ill and on strong medication, and only able to talk about the physical abuse.
Walton started getting into trouble when he was very young and went into his first children’s home before the age of 10. A few years later he was placed in a training school in the southern highlands. ‘I don’t even know even to this day actually what the charge was,’ he said. ‘They done what they wanted to do to you.’
Walton described his time there as ‘a couple of years of hell’.
In his early teens he was sent to an infamous juvenile institution in the north-east of the state. ‘I stole three dollars from my sister. Three dollars. And they came down to the school, and arrested me at the school and took me to the boys’ home. Now I’m going to the hardest boys’ home in Australia or whatever. For three dollars. But when I get there … that was torture there.’
From a letter Walton wrote to the Royal Commission: ‘From the moment of arrival to the moment you were released … you were not to speak ever at any time for any reason to anyone. You were never to get within 6ft of any other person, the only words [allowed] was yes sir no sir but never one word to any inmate.’
If any of the boys disobeyed they were savagely beaten and thrown into a cell, where there were no beds and virtually nothing eat.
‘“The quickest way to the brain is through the gut.” That was their policy’, Walton said.
‘Even the priest, even the priest there. Like, they’d put a set of horse blinkers on a kid, you know, big draught horse blinkers, and they would then receive the holy sacrament off the priest. And the priest wouldn’t even bat an eyelid.’
Again from Walton’s letter: ‘I could go on and write volumes of low acts … abused, humiliated, bashed, starved … I was determined and told them they would not break me, but they have for the last 60 years I have had them on my mind not one day goes by that they don’t come to mind … and it will be on my mind every day for the rest of my life.’
Walton ended up being sent to the home four times, each time for a period of six months.
‘I was 18 when I left, the day I turned 18. And then they bought me back to Central, and just left me there. That was it. Just dropped me off at Central with 15 dollars or something in my pocket. No mum, no dad, no nothing. And said, “Here, get along with this”.’
Walton said he slept on the streets in Sydney, surviving on whatever he could scrounge. ‘I used to go down to the markets and eat what they threw out.’
He didn’t talk much about the years since then, only saying that he’d been in and out of jail. Walton said that he’d committed crimes out of necessity, ‘as a means to live or survive …’
But he also became a husband and father, and found that working with his hands helped take his mind off the past. ‘Got me through, good times and bad times. You know, just pass the time.’
Speaking to the Royal Commission was difficult and draining for Walton but, even with his poor health, he found the strength to do it. ‘I’ve been waiting, honestly, for 60 years. Sixty years for somebody to listen to what went on.’