But I’m also a youth worker, an indigenous man, a dad and a partner. I know first-hand why it’s time to talk.
My name is Jason Murphy, I’m an Indigenous man from the Jinibara Peoples of South East QLD. I would like to pay my respects and thank everyone that is taking the time to read about a small part of my story.
I’m not an expert writer and I would never say to you that I speak for all Indigenous People that have been through experiences like mine. What I do share with you is purely my experiences and the way I have thought about them and worked through them. I will say, though, I have found over the years that other people who have shared experiences with me have suffered what I perceive to be similar feelings and struggles as a result of having been abused as children.
My earliest memory I have is my Auntie telling me my mother had been killed in a car accident, I was three years old. At the time I was the youngest of four siblings. The four of us as Aboriginal kids in the 1970’s were immediately placed in a state-run home and my Grandmother had to apply to be our Legal Guardian. When Nan was granted guardianship, she was living with my Uncle, who had received a brain injury in the same car accident.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but this event would send my life spiralling out of control. It was at this time my Uncle started molesting me. This abuse went on, even though members of my family knew what he was like, and what he was doing to me. He was a serial paedophile. I can recall angry neighbours coming to the house and yelling obscenities and accusation at him and my Aunt. I recall the police coming to the property to speak with him and my Aunt. Even at a young age, I knew it wasn’t just me it was happening to, and I knew what he was doing. I remember these incidents – and there were several of them – and the crippling fear I felt knowing how easy it was for him to get away with his actions. It is a strange and disturbing thing, to know so clearly what is wrong with a situation and feel there is no help available.
During this time, I also remember visits from a social worker from the Department of Children’s Services. Right before her scheduled visit we would be sternly coached what and what not to say. We were threatened not to talk about any of the household “events” and that doing so would result in being removed from Nan, and never seeing each other again. Nothing filled me with fear, more than the thought of being away from my sisters and brother. I later found out my sisters, who were also being abused by another uncle, were just as terrified as me.
In addition to the sexual abuse, we were all subjected to other kinds of abuse too. The beatings were frequent, and they also implemented more unusual forms of punishment. I do remember my Uncle once giving me a haircut and cutting deeply into the side of my ear with the scissor. Aside from the pain, and horror of the situation, I was struck more by the look of enjoyment on his face. It was a moment where I knew how much of an evil person he is, and how little compassion and humanity his character comprised.
One day I came home and found my older brother, yelling at my uncle, and they were physically fighting. I remember my brother calling him names and tell him to; ”leave me alone”. Even though I would have been fairly young, I knew what was going on. My brother was big enough to fight back and I was glad. Sadly, we never talked about it, but I always knew from that incident that Kenny was suffering too. My brother died some years later of an asthma attack at the age of 18. The regret I feel about never talking to him about our, I suspect, shared experiences is something I carry with me to this day.
I have so many memories of those traumatic early years. I recall lying frozen in my bed, waiting for my uncle to come in. I would become so anxious when I would see the door slowly opening in the middle of the night. Other nights I would wonder if tonight was the night. It continues at times, to be the greatest fear I have ever known. I barely recall a good night’s sleep, and I would fall asleep in class, and experienced frequent bed-wetting. To this day, I only sleep around four hours a night.
This abuse went on until I was about 15 years old. I lost my way and began taking drugs from the age of 11 to 27. During this time, I have lived on the streets, I have eaten out of bins to survive and I believe all these experiences can be related back to being sexually abused as a child. I found it difficult to cope and often I would sleep under a bridge at The Gap. I would love to tell you all about how brave I was and that I fought tooth and nail to stop the attacks, but I complied and I kept his dark secret for a time that seemed like an eternity. It seems to me, looking back, that I was encouraged to keep quiet about it by certain family members, not just the perpetrator. I would be at family outings and I would keep up the façade that everything was all right. Looking back, I always knew it was wrong and that it was his issues, not mine; perhaps this is the reason is why I have been able to come through the other side. I once told some family members what was happening, and I was told to be quiet. My Aunt asked for details. When I gave her an awkward description of an event, she looked at me and said; “Is that all?” She was dismissive and refused to acknowledge the gravity of the situation. My sister remembers that conversation.
I agreed to share my story because I hope it can be helpful. I want to explain to people who have never experienced child sexual abuse, how alone you feel, how insignificant, how it rips something from you that you never believe you’ll ever get back. I don’t even quite know what it is that is taken; some people call it dignity, or innocence, but those words don’t fully explain the part of you that’s gone. I want to explain how no matter how hard you try; it seems to permeate and reverberate through every single aspect of your life. It could be a smell, in my case it Brute 33, his preferred aftershave. It can be a statement someone utters, the creak of floorboards, all manner of different things can transport a person right back to the scene of the crimes committed against them. The sight of a man in a sarong makes me want to vomit. During hot weather, my uncle would parade around the house in a sarong and nothing underneath it. In sunlight you could see his revolting body. These thoughts never go away.
Much of my immediate family has now turned their back on my because I decided to seek police assistance, which resulted in him being charged, convicted, and incarcerated for six months. Sadly, it isn’t his first conviction, and I know of several others who have been assaulted by him. My family includes prominent members of the Brisbane indigenous community, school teachers, judges, lawyers, university lecturers, and executive-level public servants. Most of whom choose to play happy family at Christmas with him, excluding me and my family. He has been invited to family weddings and other family occasions, as if he is a fine, upstanding member of the community. In recent years, this has probably hurt me the most, but that too is something I have made peace with. My happiness won’t be jeopardised for someone else’s misdeeds. I do worry about my children being exposed to him, and I have hard of young relatives being left in his care.
I went to a private solicitor to pursue a civil victim of crime case. This involved a psychiatrist’s report where I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder from the years of abuse. This report was particularly painful for me to go through, reopening old wounds that I realise now are just under the surface. What the solicitor did not tell me was that because what happened occurred prior to 1984 I was only entitled to a set sum. Unfortunately for me, the amount I paid the solicitor was more than twice this amount. My Aunt then placed my Uncle’s house in her name, so I couldn’t recover any funds from his, as he was on paper, “broke”. She was named as a witness in the case against her brother, but refused to make a statement to the police. In a newspaper article about the case she also hypocritically stated that victims need to seek counselling early, and this wasn’t the case with her own family. She lived in the house for most of the years I was being abused, she sat at the kitchen table when I divulged it, and she was there when neighbours made accusations, and the police were coming to our house.
I need all of you not to judge my story as that of a typical Aboriginal story of molestation, cycles of poverty, and substance abuse. Not every Aboriginal man is a paedophile, a drunk, or a criminal. Although this is blindingly obvious for most people, unfortunately there are a lot of preconceived, stereotypical ideas about Aboriginal people, which have, at times, been weaponised by the community and politicians. All of you professional people within your various parts of the system need to realise, that just because a family may not have much money, or they do things a little differently culturally, doesn’t automatically make them bad parents; let their actions be the catalyst for your action.
I have now been working with disadvantaged youth for 20 years, much of this time has been at a Youth Detention Centre. I love my job and I believe I make a difference in the lives of many of the young people I work with. Due to my honesty about what happened to me as a child, a lot of people have disclosed to me events of their lives of a similar nature. I am annoyed and saddened to realise how prevalent paedophilia is. I am even more horrified by the idea that the majority of perpetrators are family friends, or relatives.
It took me a long time to organise my life (away from the chaos) and make decisions that have led me to a happy, satisfied place. I am a parent now; I have three beautiful daughters. My life is spent ensuring that my girls have the best opportunities and education. My partner of 18 years is supportive and patient, and I know they don’t always understand me, but they accept my quirks and they make me feel loved and worthwhile. While I have endeavoured to ensure my daughters have a childhood that was denied to me, and strive to be the best parent I can, the residual from my own childhood has made me acutely aware of the dangers that lurk. Our daughters don’t have sleepovers, and we don’t leave our children in poorly supervised places, or with many people. It is unfortunate, but both my wife and I know of events that can damage a child more than not allowing sleepovers.
I will forever be grateful to my contacts at ARGOS. These wonderful, dedicated caring people assisted me in a very important journey in my life. They enabled me to get justice, even thought it was many years later. They treated me with dignity and respect and empowered me to have the strength to follow through with the process all the way to the end. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but I’m so glad I did it, and it was made easier knowing that there was no judgement, and that they too wanted to help me get justice. I am happy to say my story ends well. I will never forget the events of my childhood, nor do I imagine they will ever not terrify me, but now I am happy. I feel privileged that things fell into place for me, and I know for so many they don’t. I know that some people get stuck in the foster care system, or the juvenile justice system, or become dependent on drugs, or alcohol. For those people, I will always believe there is hope, but there needs to be good quality, qualified, understanding people to support them.
Thank you for taking time to read my story and please believe you are not alone, you will be believed…
Come on Australia, it’s time to talk about child sexual exploitation