by Ron (guest author) on 15 November, 2010
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My name is Ron and I am 61 years old. I am here today for the Forgotten Australians apology by Kevin – sorry, Mr Rudd. I have mixed feelings about it. One is that an apology after 60 years of basic abuse by the Salvation Army where I was incarcerated when I was 11 years old, that sort of thing, with the physical abuse and sexual abuse, it’s always something hard to get over.
I found my time at Box Hill Boys Home to be enjoyable in some aspects in as much basically we all went to school together and we did create some sort of brotherhood. But what happens when you got to about 14 or 15 in those days, you got shipped out to farms or put to work, and once you got a job you were basically taken out of the home.
In my situation I went to work on my uncle’s farm, but prior to that I was in a youth hostel in Auburn which is a suburb of Melbourne. Once again encountered the same effects from the Salvation Army, which is probably contradictory to what they preach. But you learn to live and move on, you know. Some people think I am fairly well adjusted which I am on the exterior, but underneath there’s probably a lot of scarring, if I can use those words.
I have come from Victoria today for the apology. It carries a fair bit of significance for me because, having been in institutions, I find there is a little bit of contradiction in as much as I don’t hold the federal government responsible, I hold the state governments responsible because the state governments are the ones who subsidised all the church institutions.
I recognise that Mr Rudd wants to apologise but I also recognise that the apology probably should have come from other areas, which include the state governments at that time and also churches responsible for not only the abuse in my particular area but the abuse in other institutions. Without those apologies from those particular areas we just won’t move on. People talk to me about closure but I don’t think there is such a thing as closure unless you confront the demons that create the problems.
Since I arrived here last night, we came up earlier the day before the actual apology, we were all put into hotels and I had a very distinct pleasure last night of catching up with two of my former home people – I don’t know what word to use. After 50 years seeing these people and talking to them, it’s just like a long-lost family, you know, it’s very hard. These are decent blokes. There is nothing untoward about them at all.
We basically had our own brotherhood, if I can use that word. But also I mustn’t forget there was Indigenous boys in the home too. They were accepted as black and white sort of thing, there was no discrimination. We stood by each other even at tech school. If there was a blue at tech school, they’d be behind you looking after you. I have that much respect for Indigenous culture because of that.
Let me just tell you one thing. One of the things that has plagued me since I was probably 18 or 19, this is a fact that I’ve been married twice, and most of the people you speak to who are here today will tell you they have been married twice at least. What causes that – one of the sad tragic things about being in an institution is that it takes away that feeling of love. Even when you get married the first time, you find it very difficult for someone to come and hug you, for someone to love you, for you to tell someone that you love them too. It is one of the most difficult things to live through for 50 years, that sort of situation. I know because I’ve been married twice, and the first marriage broke up because of that and probably a couple of other factors associated with being in the boys home, for instance violence, like domestic violence, which I have managed to curb.
Also in the second marriage my wife was probably a little bit more intelligent and probably a little bit more forgiving. And at this stage I have got three children who are adults and I have got two young children. My life is pretty good at this stage. It could all go pear-shaped any time.
Have I forgiven the Salvation Army? No, no way. Until I go to the grave there is no way I will forgive the Salvation Army and the associated people with them. What they created was a monster, really for the last 50 years plus.