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Will Paul's story

‘This prison is a sex offender prison … It’s been hard. It has been really hard for me not to lash out and … it might help me for an hour but it’s not going to help me long term.

'One of the things that pisses me off is to see people coming in for stealing cars and stuff like that, and they get years. And then these people get charged with sex offences with children and they get months …

‘There’s a saying in here … “You can fuck my kids, just don’t steal my car”, because of that fact.’

Will has found being in a jail that accommodates sex offenders confronting because he was sexually abused at a Catholic boys’ home in regional Queensland. He was sent to the home, run by the De La Salle order, in the late 1990s when he was 14. Will’s behaviour had been getting worse, he had been kicked out of several high schools, and he was refusing to take his medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

‘When I started high school, I said I didn’t want to take the medication for ADHD because I was sick of the outcome when people find out I was on those pills at that age. That I think, looking back now, had quite a big influence on my behaviour … that was when I started really getting into trouble.

‘I was more than likely going to go to juvie.’

His family services officer recommended the boys’ home to his mother, so Will could avoid entering the juvenile (‘juvie’) detention system. Neither woman consulted him and Will realised that ‘my bag was already packed and in the car’.

He found the boys’ home to be a violent and cruel place.

‘I think it was a hell hole … It started with just the violence and stuff from my cottage parents. They told me I have to call them Mum and Dad, and I didn’t like that. I had a mother and a dad … and I got in quite a bit of trouble for not doing that.’

Will ran away from the home several times and received brutal punishment when he was taken back. He was also subjected to strip searches and locked, for long periods, in a small room with no toilet facilities.

‘No matter how much I screamed, no one would come … and I ended up having to do a number two in the corner. They thought it was a joke, so they said, “You’re a filthy little prick” and left me there for even longer.’

Will also found the violence between the boys difficult to cope with.

‘It was drilled into me from when I was a little kid just always walk away, always walk away. But in that environment, I’d already been attacked a couple of times … I punched him and broke his nose, and they ended up taking him to hospital.’

Will was sexually abused in the home by a young, trainee Brother.

‘He was from Melbourne and he was kind of training to be a Brother or something like that. And one of his things was to go there to the home for a couple of months … I can’t tell you how long it was, but he was there a while.’

He and the other boys didn’t talk about their abuse. They didn’t trust any of the staff enough to make a report, and if there was sexual abuse occurring between the boys, it wasn’t discussed.

‘It’s not something that we’d talk about together. They’d automatically say, “Oh, you’re gay”, and at that age, at that point in our life, that wasn’t a good thing. We all thought we were Mr Macho and stuff like that.’

After one family day, Will decided that he’d had enough.

‘I was watching my mum, my brothers and my sister’s leave, and I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I went and rounded up some boys and said, “I’ve had enough and I’m sick of what’s happening”. They didn’t know what was happening to me with [the Brother] but I just said, "If you want to go, we’ll go”.’

The boys escaped and travelled for many hours to get to a town. Will went back to his mother’s place.

‘I stayed there for a couple of weeks, if that. I was in destruction mode. What happened in the home – I just didn’t know how to deal with it.

‘I got put on probation and stuff like that, ended up going to juvie and in and out of halfway houses … Unfortunately it continued and continued and continued.’

Will has spent considerable time in prison since. After his most recent sentence, he has undertaken a range of programs, including one where he had ‘tell your story’, which helped him gain some perspective on his life.

‘I never told my story to anybody. Nobody at all. I still haven’t told anybody everything that’s gone on.’

He has a regular counsellor to help him work through the impact of his abuse in the boys’ home and he has recently told his parents about his experiences.

‘My mum is now a foster parent … Now she can understand why I was doing what I was doing. Our relationship has got a lot better.’

He has a son who has just been taken into the care of welfare services. Will is determined to regain custody of him after he is released from jail.

‘One thing I didn’t like when I was a child was that when I did try and talk about some things, I’d get in trouble … People who were trying to talk to me had no clue what I was going through.

‘The best thing I can do for my son is have him know and believe that I’m there. That he can trust me. I’ve always said to my kid, "Don’t lie to me and I can help. If you lie to me, I can’t help because I don’t know what’s going on".’

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