DUNCAN STORRAR: The Royal Commission: Why I just had to go

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One of more than 1,000 messages from survivors published by the Royal Commission (

Duncan Storrar was abused in state-run facilities as a child. It scarred him for life. Duncan testified about his experiences to the Royal Commission. He was there at the final day of hearings last month. His account of the day is an emotional rollercoaster ride — remarkable for its honesty, insight and candour.

OKAY, let's boot this rollercoaster off. As always, when I write on this subject, I speak and write for myself not for all survivors. We all are different people, and I can only attest to what I have experienced and how I feel. What I need for my redress and healing is not what another may feel they need for their healing.

On this, I have accepted I can’t be fixed and can only deal with the symptoms of my trauma.

We – the group I belong to – are different from the ones before us. There was a convergence of different things leading to a very new trauma for us. I’ve been trying to find a term to explain who we are in last year and all I can come up with is we Fathers Bob's Street Kids, or The Kids of the Cross or the Valley in Brissy. Now here is the thing: we were abused in government care like all before us. And we ran away like all before us. What was different was when we ran what we ran into was Australia’s biggest heroin experience. There was also a new middle-class toy called a camcorder, where you could make videos, behind closed doors and in secret. So we, as 13-year-olds, became prey and commodities. Look at the Royal Commission into Police Corruption in the 1990s in NSW to see what happened to us at hands of the Police that were meant to be helping us; the Vice Squad controlled kiddy porn, must I paint you more of a picture? Let’s just say most of my friends are dead at the end of needle. I haven’t had friends for years and I'm only just learning in last year how to have friends again. These are the daily things we survivors live with.

A few weeks ago, I had a need in my bones that came across in a night terror, (yes, us Forgotten Australians have a great life.) I must go to final hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse. I couldn’t get funding, so by Monday I was looking like hitchhiking (thank you Turnbull government for taking away my pension and giving me NewStart, I’ve never been so poor). The head of our charity bought me a return bus ticket (thank you, Kate). So, now I’m all excited I’m going and I pack my bag and catch my bus. Some 14 hours later, I arrive at Sydney Central Station. As there is no washing facilities at Central, I find myself shaving and changing in the disabled toilets. I point this out because: WTF, NSW?

I find the place I must go to and a friend from our group (a closed website for forgotten Australians — we support each other) I haven’t met before but bond with straight away. As the entrance is being swamped with people, we are worried we won’t get a seat. We forgot it’s the Commission and we have both given private hearings to it and it has treated us all with great empathy. Once inside, they had free coffee — real coffee. Helpers are making sure we are all ok. I cannot fault the Commission they have treated with kindness and respect since day one and personally, thank you to Julia Gillard for this. At this point, more and more people from the group are meeting. There are tears of joy, tears of pain; I have no words at all to explain these feelings, there are none.

We go into room and get seats save some for our group. As the room fills up and it quietens down we look around and see Malcom Turnbull has turned up.

murmur goes around the room (now you have to remember we haven’t had the lives you people have had):

"Look! Why is that maggot here? All he does is say Royal Commissions are do nothing reports."

As survivors, we are terrified that token things will be done with the redress scheme, that seems, to us, to be based on the Melbourne response.

Some people from our group, all of whom I just met, along with Bill Shorten, doing what Turnbull should have done (Image supplied)

Later in the day, I posted this on Twitter:

Everything settles down, and the commissioners come out. Then something happened that I have neve never seen before at a legal proceeding – it was beautiful and the press missed it or chose not to report on it – we all stood and clapped like kids at a rock concert for a full five minutes, it was like it wouldn’t stop. I have seen this once before and that was when Gillian Triggs came to an ACOSS conference when the Government was hassling her.

I can’t really remember what the Commissioner was saying, but another example of how the Commission made it our day – not the politicians, or the press – was where people were mentioned, we would clap and make comment. This isn’t allowed at these things, but is was allowed here and, once again, was a beautiful thing to behold. They presented a massive book of our words and, as they read them out, I start crying — the tears pouring out. I haven’t been asleep since the morning before and I was on a bus all night. The Commissioner closes the final hearing and, once again, we give standing ovation.

Now the next 15 minutes of time is a blur of photos, with some recorded sound thrown in — that’s how it sounds in my mind, But I convinced myself that Malcom Turnbull had to hear how we all felt and it was my job to tell him. So, I went in line and, as I stood there, something strange happened — a perfect example of how we live with the effects of what they did to us forever. I have started a charity for kids in care I speak to politicians and speak at events. I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to speak to the main leaders about my charity and the need for funding. But no (now people who have CPTSD know this term), I started to trigger — not from the abuse, but from Turnbull's presence.

Now, I’m not sure if I left the line, or Bill Shorten and Jenny Macklin saw my distress and took me out of the line.

But the next thing I knew, I was in front of the Leader of the Opposition I think I was shouting, saying:

"You have to say in the next Question Time that he has been bagging royal commissions for months, taking all faith out that something will be done."

I remember saying that we are all upset, that "Turnbull is a "cu*t" for being here. It’s an insult!" I remember using the word "cu*t" several times. 

Now, at this point, a neuron in my brain said "Fuck dude you are shouting. You just said cu*t to the Labor leader". Then another neuron said, "Yeah dude, time for the brain to check out and, for the third time in my life, I felt myself about to have a dissociative episode. But for the first time, the last 18 months of psychology sessions paid off because the fight or flight part of my brain said no and screamed "Get the fuck out now!" I remember saying to Dave  I had to get out and I’ll be back, don’t stress. I lied, I didn’t know if I'd make it to door before I shut off from reality. I made it to the elevators 17 floors down, people telling me about the nice weather, with me looking at them if they are aliens and their words are fading away into slipping reality.

Finally, after what felt like five hours, but was really 30 seconds a door opens. I make my way through the foyer walk out the door. I am great, but a ring of cameras duck back in. Now I’m a trapped dog, but years of being invisible see me through, as I slink past unnoticed outside again and walk half a block away. There, I light a smoke, and sit down and, at last, my knees go. I shut off. If you had spoken to me, I would have looked straght throught you and not even seen you. I only came back when the smoke got down to the end and burnt my fingers.

Now, I must thank everybody from the group to our CEO, to Dave, who comes to everything like this — I know I’m hard to deal with, but without you all I wouldn’t get through these days.

So, after I went back upstairs, and spoke and mingled, and hugged and cried, I did say to Bill Shorten afterwards that he has two choices regarding poverty: he can be a Paul Keating or a Gough Whittlem.

After we left, me and my good friend went sat in the Botanic Garden and he just let me talk and cry. This whole day affected me more than I thought it would. I stayed in Campbelltown that night and found myself walking the streets, just crying. This continued until Monday, where I woke up refreshed. Feeling wonderful, it had sunk in that the Report says we are right. It says we deserve redress and we deserve recognition for the barriers in our lives that living with the pain of government care and abuse has given us.

On the note of whether Christian Porter should have been there, for once I'll give him credit. Malcom Turnbull upset us so much, his presence would have really set us off and for once, maybe he thought with compassion. I know and I thank the Left for their outrage on this issue. It was a day for us, the Commission made that clear, not a day for politics, so the Minister coming would have desecrated that moment, I really like to think. I give the man the benefit of doubt and say he at least had the compassion to see and understand this.

So here I sit, as I write this, seven days after the final hearing. On a personal note, I got what I needed from the Commission: I got to tell my story. I got to be believed and told by the State that I do deserve to be angry that my personal life has been destroyed and, even though I still feel like a freak looking at the world not part of it (this will never go away), society at least accepts me now. These are the gifts I have personally received from the Commission and I thank the Commissioners, the people who gave their stories and the Gillard government for letting the Commission do its job and never once saying no to extensions of time, scope or budget. All these things have helped bring validation to my life.

One other untold thing the has come from the Commission is it has given us a voice and, over the last five years, we have found each other — wonderful selfless people, who have formed groups on Facebook, mostly closed sites, where we support each other and talk about the things that affect us. They give us peace knowing we are not alone. And after seven days, I thought I would list some of the main things us as survivors are in fear of when it comes to outcomes for the Commission.

Now, I’m a child of government abuse, not church. Some of the homes I was in might have been owned and operated by church run charities, but I was a state ward in home, boys homes  or the bad boys home if you’re in the '70s and want to scare your kids. So that is my experience and we were 32% of responses to the Commission and my generation hardly came forward — in fact, only one in five people came forward. We who have lived poverty from what we were taught, never had secure housing and, if we had a car, it was a bomb. With the crack down on social welfare, being a victim of government inflicted child abuse, let alone repeated at every place you were housed over the years. This is no longer a reason to have a pension, so we have all been put on NewStart. This is forcing people to edge and some of us to just jump off.

Thank you, Mr Morrison. Is that $100 million saving worth it for the ones of us you have pushed over the edge. It's not just the drop in income, it’s the things we now have to do for that little money. The state does this to us in our 40s after what they did in our teens and younger. WTF? Even when you point out seeing your job network provider once a fortnight is just like seeing your social worker as a kid and a bloody trigger, you still must go. This is same government we must trust to implement the findings of the Royal Commission. Can you see why we are fearful.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about what I think of the redress that the Libs/Nats came up with after consultation with our perpetrators; on what they are willing to pay — turns out that is basically the Melbourne response way to respect our needs)

Now if you ever speak to somebody like me you will hear this a lot: “The damage I have can't be fixed. What is most important is we do something for kids today." And we are getting angry with the press. In the last month, we have seen rehashed all the stories about priests and the grammar schools, and every time the press, show the figure 32% of all responses. But they must have decided that the public don’t want to know about the kids in care as there has not been one story on Volume 12 of the recommendations, which cover kids in care today.

This is a great fear to us: it's why we told our stories and why we had the Commission. We never thought we get money or anything. What we want above all else is to fix it for the kids in there now we cannot be fixed. The job of the media now isn’t to fill pages with pieces about the history of the Christian brothers, or the Ballarat churches. Your job is to redeem your profession for the silence you took part in, except for people like Bob Bottom and his like. Nobody spoke of abuse in state care. But I guess he worked with the monsters state abuse makes.  So to redeem that silence. The media must hold the feet of the governments of all states to implement all recommendations of volume 12 of the royal commission this is for the kids in care today they are the main reason us kids from care spoke not for us but the kids in care now.

The next thing that worries us is that nobody has asked what we want as there has been no consultation. There are plenty who say what we want, such people on The DrumLateline and 7.30 But not us — we don’t get to speak or voice our opinion. We are so messed up, not all of us even realise there has been a Commission, let alone write a submission to the government for a Senate inquiry. This is not the way to consult with us.

So here is my redress and I ask all survivors of all abuse to tweet and Facebook to #ThisIsMyRedress, as all of us have different ides on what our personal redress is so ill end this with


  • Secure housing in a community of our choosing.
  • Secure income (a pension for people who were in state care).
  • Secure accessible and appropriate medical care.

If we don’t get that, then set redress at $1 million each, as that is what that all cost per person.

Duncan Storrar is an anti-poverty advocate and has started an advocacy service for children in care and their families. You can follow Duncan on Twitter @indica2007.

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