Pain of abuse a daily companion for Bob
THEY call people like Bob Cox the Forgotten Australians.
But 50 years after the brutality and degradation he suffered in children's homes, Bob says his memories haunt him every day.
The 63-year-old, who lives near The Caves, wishes he could forget the four years of physical, mental and sexual abuse he endured as a teenager.
He was taken into care after running away from a vicious stepmother at 13. But instead of a bolthole from the neglect and beatings he was used to at home, he found more pain than he could handle in what he describes today as a “full-on hell-hole”.
Bob - who has received close to $80,000 in compensation from the Government, Salvation Army and United Church - attended a forum on the official apology to the nation's abused generation of care home kids at The Travelodge in Rockhampton yesterday.
And he says no amount of compensation or heartfelt apology can erase the years of torment caused by daily bashings, floggings, paedophilia and mental cruelty.
“I'm still seeing mental health counsellors and I still wake up in the night because the nightmares of being kicked unconscious are so vivid,” he said.
“Quite a few of the lads I was with in the homes committed suicide, became alcoholics or ended up in mental institutions.”
He said the legacy of his treatment has been a life-long fear of authority, depression, recurring health problems related to the injuries he suffered, and difficulty making friends.
“It was four years, but it has had a huge impact on my life. I still find it difficult to cope with crowds and I tend to shy away from people.
“I wanted an education, but we got no schooling because we had to work to pay for our keep. There was no kindness, just brutality. It was like being in a concentration camp.”
In 1960 Bob was sent to Riverview in Brisbane, run by the Salvation Army, and was later transferred to Westbrook, near Toowoomba.
He ran away from a home run by the United Church because of the constant sexual abuse.
“The Federal Government says it will give us a formal apology and I've had some financial compensation. But I think what we really need in a city like Rockhampton, where there are probably 100 or more just like me, is a drop-in centre where we can sit down and help each other.”
He said he would also press the authorities to issue victims of the children's homes abuse scandals with gold medical cards.
“Many of us have long-term and expensive medical problems that were caused by the treatment we received.”
Yesterday's forum was part of a national information-gathering exercise by the Australian Government ahead of a national apology.
The Senate has recommended an apology after a lengthy inquiry into the abuse of the Forgotten Australians - about 500,000 children in orphanages or homes between the 1920s and 1970s.