‘It’s my last option of getting any justice’: redress scheme starts for child abuse victims
Doug Goulter has always hated shaking hands. Years of sexual abuse when he was in a Melbourne boy's home, and then Sydney's Long Bay jail at just 17, means he still shrinks from physical contact.
"Intimacy and stuff like that is out of the question because it reveals too much about yourself," he says.
"Even with the people you love you can't be too intimate, and you can't even talk to them about it because they don't want to feel your pain.
"They can't understand it, because if you haven't been in the institutions you can't understand it."
Mr Goulter is now 69 years old. He will be one of the first people to apply for compensation through the National Redress Scheme for survivors of child sexual abuse, which starts today.
But he is angry that he is likely to receive an average payout of $76,000.
"There is no other option for me. Civil action would be the best way to go but I don't have the time. My life expectancy is so short now that to take civil action would just take too long," he says.
Mr Goulter has Ischaemic cardiomyopathy with heart failure, and he says he may have only a few years to live.
"I need an outcome from the redress and I need it as soon as possible," he says.
"It's my last option of getting any justice or any sort of compensation to make life a bit easier. I can leave the heater on, or I can fill the car up with petrol with more than $10 at a time."
'It affects your whole life for the rest of your life'
Mr Goulter was sent to the Salvation Army's Bayswater Boys' Home in Melbourne's east from 1965 to 1968 where he was sexually abused multiple times by one of the Salvation Army's staff.
A psychologist's report in 1966 described his "mistrust" and "suspicious attitude towards society". It said "the lad increasingly tends to withdraw from social contacts, which are perceived by him as dangerous and harmful."
He ran away three times.
"It just led from one escape to another and the police every time I got recaptured, they just want to send me back to the same situation," he says.
"They'd never ask, you could never tell them, why the reasons are you're escaping.
"All you could do was commit more crime. You had no money, no clothes, nothing to eat or drink. What else were you going to do?"
At 17 years old, Mr Goulter was sentenced to two' years imprisonment in Sydney's Long Bay jail.
"'We can't control you. You're a menace to society'. That's what the three judges said to me in Sydney central court," he says.
"What do you think happens to a young boy when you're the smallest and most vulnerable?
"Do you want to know about the rapes in an adult prison in Long Bay when they force you to go from one cell to another without the screws knowing?
"It affects your whole life for the rest of your life. It doesn't go away. It never goes away. You never really forget it. It's part of everything you do, but you don't realise it half the time."
Doubts over whether redress scheme is best for survivors
More than 90 per cent of the estimated 60,000 survivors of child sexual abuse can now apply for redress. The maximum award has been capped at $150,000.
Minister for Social Services, Dan Tehan, says it is a momentous occasion for those who have been seeking compensation for years.
"Redress provides an easier mechanism to get monetary compensation, to get an apology and importantly to get counselling," he says.
"The average payout will be $76,000. That's our best estimate."
But Melbourne lawyer Vivian Waller says the redress scheme should be a last resort.
"Potentially they could have a common law claim worth hundreds of thousands of dollars and they need to be informed about the viability of any common law claim before applying for redress," she says.
"Because in order to receive any payment from the redress scheme they'll have to sign away all their rights to sue."
Ms Waller has represented hundreds of abuse victims and said in two recent cases the Supreme Court of Victoria awarded just over a million dollars in one case, and nearly $700,000 in another.
"The redress scheme doesn't make any accommodation for medical expenses beyond $5000 of counselling, it doesn't provide compensation for loss of wages, or the impact on a person's education or career. All of these things can be accommodated in a common law claim."
It is an option Mr Goulter does not believe he has.
He will apply for compensation under the national redress scheme by filling out a 43-page application form. But he is worried he will end up with only the average redress payment of $76,000,
He will not accept it.
"How do you define average? My life wasn't average. I want the maximum of whatever they have to offer. And if I can't speak to someone how do I ask for that?"