Zackary's story

Zackary has a very clear memory of the day he left the children’s home in 1973. ‘They give me a dollar note and an old, you know the old school ports you used to have? With a couple of clothes in it. Put me on the train and sent me there [home]. And no one down there knew I was coming. I didn’t know where me family lived. I didn’t know nothing. I was a kid.’ But Zackary was lucky. His father and brother were coming home from work and spotted him.

That was the day Zackary started drinking. As an adult he would drink five litres of wine, seven days a week.

Zackary was from a very large family in a small town in Queensland. Both his parents were alcoholics and at some stage his mother was hospitalised with mental health problems.

When Zackary was nine, he and some of his siblings were sent to a government-run children’s home in a nearby major town. His siblings were all eventually fostered but Zackary stayed on at the home. He said it was like a jail. You were not allowed out unless going to sport or accompanied by an adult trustee.

A man at the children’s home, Stuart, who was also the boyfriend of one of the nurses, used to sexually abuse Zackary on a regular basis. One time, when Zackary was around 12, Stuart was taken to the garden commons to collect dung. Zackary had a feeling he knew what to expect but it was a chance to get out of the home, even for an hour. ‘The only dung that was got was me.’ Zackary came back bleeding. He couldn’t tell anyone.

On another occasion, Stuart assaulted Zackary in a swimming pool. ‘I tried to tell the matron … She left me in the office. She went and had a yarn with this nurse … Then about six of them come in and they attack me from all different angles … I got quite a few hidings. Because I was a liar and … “You’re not fit to be on the planet” …

‘I told her the truth. They ground it into us – “Tell the truth. Tell the truth”. And when you did you were a liar. You just were not believed whatsoever … It wasn’t only me he was doing it to.’

Some of the nurses would also abuse Zackary. This included fondling. Zackary’s first sexual experience was this – again, when he was around 12. But Stuart was far worse.

Shortly after disclosing to the matron, Zackary and a few other children escaped and went to the police station. He demanded to be taken back to his family but there was no way he could tell them about the sexual abuse.

After three and a half years in the children’s home, Zackary left at the age of 14. He worked for a short time with his father, then went fruit picking, travelling all around Australia. Now, he has two adult children and a newer relationship which is going well. After 40 years of drinking, Zackary gave up alcohol three years ago. He also gave up smoking but, in the months leading up to speaking to the Royal Commission, he took it back up again due to the stress.

‘You survive but you don’t forget … I still dream about this, years and years later. And I’ve gone 10 years. More. And then you might see something or something triggers something. Boom. You think of that particular time.’

As an adult, the first time Zackary disclosed was to a psychiatrist about 10 years ago. He also is still in contact with an ex-nurse from the children’s home, who he said is a good person and very angry about the stories of abuse coming out of there. She encouraged Zackary to seek compensation from the redress scheme and he received a small payment. She also encouraged him to contact the Royal Commission.

Zackary obtained his file too, thinking there would be a lot in it, but most of it was ‘blacked out’.

Stuart has died and although Zackary felt ‘good’ about that, he also ‘missed out on, I don’t know, retribution or revenge, whatever. Which would never happen anyway. I’m not like that … It’s frustrating’.

Zackary doesn’t trust authority. He expressed dislike of gay people. He has suffered from depression ‘big time’ but this did ease once he gave up drinking.

Zackary didn’t want to come to the Royal Commission but he did want to ‘get this off me chest …

‘I feel a lot easier now. I was as nervous as hell when I come in.’

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