Brett* was born to a British merchant seaman who was in Australia illegally. When his parents separated, his mother took his sister, and his father took Brett. Brett’s father was away for extended periods of time while working on the high seas. The Department of Child Welfare issued an ultimatum that he either care for his son, or Brett would be placed at Alkira Boy’s Home at Indooroopilly run by the Salvation Army (Alkira). At just five years old, Brett was admitted to Alkira, where he would remain for the next six years.
At Alkira, Major Victor Bennett was intimidating to the young Brett. He had a big husky voice, a large nose and curly hair. Major Bennett’s favourite assault was to squeeze Brett’s buttocks as he was walking past.
Brett was physically assaulted in other ways on many occasions. He was beaten for any minor misdemeanour. However, the assaults were not limited to disciplinary measures. Lt Rogers and Major Bennett would take Brett into their office and force him to take his clothes off. They said they were checking him for disease. They would grope his genitals. Then they would take their own uniforms off. They would beat Brett in their underwear, or while naked. They would use their hands, canes or a belt. Then they would take turns sodomising him. They would rape him as punishment for trying to run away from Alkira. After these beatings, there would be welts all over Brett’s body. They would make Brett stand naked in front of the other children to show them the welts. This occurred on numerous occasions.
Brett believed there was no point in reporting the abuse to anyone in a position of authority because it would only result in more beatings. He was also embarrassed to talk about the sexual abuse by Lt Rogers and Major Bennett.
When Brett discovered that he was not alone in his abuse, he contacted Kelso Lawyers. We put together a comprehensive statement about his abuse and negotiated with the Salvation Army on his behalf.
Brett’s education suffered as a result of the abuse. The officers did not want the other students or teachers at the school to see Brett’s welts. So they made him stay back at the home. Brett later taught himself how to read and write during his time in prison. Brett was institutionalised at several other juvenile justice institutions and prisons.
At age 17, the Department located Brett’s father in the UK. The Department paid half the airfare for his travel to the UK. When he landed in the UK, he discovered that his father was an alcoholic and the pair often fought. Brett struggled to keep a job and eventually turned to a life of crime and drugs. When he was last discharged from prison he decided to return to Australia where he tried to get a job. He worked in various low-skilled and low-paying jobs, trying to eke out an existence. He tried to find his mother and sister but was unsuccessful. Brett decided never to get involved in drugs or crime again. Although, he never established a long-term relationship with another person.
Brett continued to struggle with his thoughts of the past, although he never had much success with counselling. He considered suicide over many years and once attempted to take his own life.
In 2013, when Brett saw news reports about other victims of abuse at the Salvation Army homes coming forward, Brett decided he would too. Until then, he thought he was the only victim out there. Brett contacted Kelso Lawyers. In a sensitive and respectful way, we put together a comprehensive statement about his time at Alkira. We wrote to the Salvation Army on his behalf and demanded compensation.
Brett is a new man. He bought a caravan and set off on a trip around Australia … Brett is leading a carefree life with the sun in his face, the wind in his hair, and no more dark thoughts to worry him.
We obtained his admission records from his time at Alkira. We explained to him that Major Bennett featured heavily at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and that Brett was not the only victim. We obtained his medical records and showed the Salvation Army that Brett was still experiencing the trauma and required help and compensation. We arranged a meeting with a senior member of the Salvation Army to meet with Brett in Sydney. The Salvation Army flew Brett to Sydney and provided him with accommodation for the meeting. Brett received an apology, followed by a written apology. He received a substantial financial settlement to help him to rebuild his life. We negotiated with the Salvation Army to pay for some of Brett’s long overdue dental expenses.
Brett is a new man. He bought a caravan and set off on a trip around Australia. He also bought a metal detector and intends to become the oldest Australian man to find a gold nugget. He is going to grow himself a long grey beard and take up surfing. Brett is leading a carefree life with the sun in his face, the wind in his hair, and no more dark thoughts to worry him. He still cannot thank us enough for the new lease on life we have given him.
* Name changed to protect privacy