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Wilton's story

When Wilton started getting into trouble with the police in the mid-1970s, he was labelled ‘uncontrollable’, made a ward of the state and sent to many church and government-run boys’ homes.

In a statement provided to the Royal Commission he wrote: ‘There were too many instances of abuse and mistreatment while in the homes to recount all my experiences. I have tried to include approximate dates, but it is difficult for me to recall dates and years. We never celebrated birthdays or Christmas at the homes’.

Around the age of 10 Wilton was placed in a Boystown home in Sydney’s south. The boy in the next bed was often sexually abused by a Brother who attempted to do the same to Wilton. To escape the abuse, the two ran away.

Over the next few years, Wilton would try to escape from sexual and physical abuse many times. But running away only extended the length of time he had to stay in the homes.

At one stage, the children’s court sent Wilton to a boys’ home in the inner west. One night he was driven to a club in Kings Cross in what he believes was a police car. ‘When I got there, they wanted me to do sexual favours for the men at the club. In particular, I remember a fat, bald man who was about 50 years old. He tried to tear my clothes off me. I bit him. I wasn’t taken back to the club again’.

But there were predators everywhere in the system. In his early teens, while in a juvenile detention centre in the western suburbs, Wilton was sexually abused by the superintendent. ‘It happened probably three times, with probably two more attempts.

‘I remember that another officer became aware of the abuse and was disgusted by what was happening’, Wilton wrote in his statement. ‘I do not think that officer ever lodged any complaint because the superintendent was his boss.

‘I ended up absconding from there for that reason. There was no one I could turn to.’

Over the next couple of years Wilton started using drugs and committing more crimes. He was eventually sent to an institution in north-east New South Wales, a place he described as a mixture of military discipline and terror.

 

From Wilton’s statement: ‘I remember being held up against the wall by three officers. The officers smelt of alcohol. One did the sexual act and the others pinned me against the wall. I believe that their aim was to humiliate me; it was about power, rather than sexual gratification.’

Wilton said he was also physically abused in the home perhaps a dozen times, with officers bashing and spitting on him. Before he finally got out of the system, he was sent back there twice more.

But he couldn’t report any of it to the authorities because they were the perpetrators.

‘I never felt that there was anyone I could speak to about the abuse’, he wrote.

In his late teens Wilton left juvenile detention but, with his record and very little education, he had few prospects. He started using hard drugs to numb the pain, and his criminal behaviour escalated. Before long he was being tried as an adult.

Wilton described himself in his 20s and 30s as ‘completely dysfunctional. I self-medicated, and just the mention of a crime against a child … would send me into a fit of rage, a frenzy’.

It wasn’t until he was in his early 40s that he first talked about the abuse. ‘I hadn’t faced it or dealt with it but I didn’t know how to, I didn’t have the tools to, I wasn’t equipped for it. They don’t teach you about this stuff at school, you know?’

When he spoke to the Commissioner, Wilton had been out of jail for several years and ‘clean of everything’ except cigarettes. In that time he’s been receiving counselling, studying and working on his music, which ‘has helped to lift me out of dark times’.

And though coming to the Royal Commission had stirred up all his worst memories, he wanted to do it ‘to help other children and make society safer’.

Wilton recommended CCTV cameras in juvenile detention centres to protect children without compromising their privacy, as well as more education programs about abuse, and immediate counselling and support for survivors.

He said children in care or detention should have a trusted mentor they can contact at any time. ‘It should be a one-on-one system [and] that person the child rings should be a constant in their life. It should be the same person every time on the switchboard. “I need some support, I just need to hear a few kind words”.

‘I’m telling you from personal experience, a few kind words can literally be the difference between life or death.’

And, while admitting it’s controversial, Wilton believes child sex offenders should be microchipped. ‘I think they gave up the right to protest an invasion of their personal space, ie their body, when they invaded the body of a child.’

Wilton has never made an official report to police nor applied for compensation. He’s investigating his options, but says money isn’t important to him. ‘I’m one of those probably rare individuals that is pretty complete within himself. I just need the basics like food, water, a little bit of sunshine and a smile every now and then.’

In his statement he wrote: ‘The abuse will impact me for the rest of my life. Despite the dark times and the intense life I have lived, I also try to search for positives.

‘My negative experiences deepened my belief in the importance of humanity and justice. They tried to take my humanity, but I ended up with more humanity than them.’

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