It took Daniel 32 years to be able to tell his story: at 13, he was sexually abused by a teacher at a Perth high school.
“I carried it in silence for 30-odd years,” he says. “I literally didn’t tell a soul until November last year when the Royal Commission findings were being handed down.
“I was full of shame. I was 13 and it was, ‘What’s going on? What do I say? Who’s going to believe me over this very respected teacher?”
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse - announced in November 2012 by then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard – handled more than 42,000 phone calls and 2500 referrals to police in its five years of investigation, giving a voice to thousands of Australians who had been abused. As part of its response, the government this year announced it would issue a formal apology to victims and survivors.
Decades after his abuse, Daniel is one of about 400 survivors who were successful in a ballot to attend the National Apology in Canberra this week. For him, the day is about acceptance.
“It’s just all about, ‘this should never happen to anyone ever again’. People shouldn’t carry that silence and the shame I’ve carried for thirty-odd years, because what happened was no fault of my own and it's taken me a long time to get my head around that.
“The biggest thing for me is just accepting what’s occurred and accepting it’s something that can now be spoken about and not something we need to carry in silence forever.”
The abuse had a profound impact on Daniel and his relationships, making it hard to get close to people throughout his life. When he first heard about the National Apology, he was not convinced it could make up for so many years of going through it alone.
“At first I was probably sceptical about what a day like this would actually mean. It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to enlist in the ballot I thought, ‘No, this is something that means a lot to me’.
“I want to be there - not just to acknowledge what's occurred, but to change the future.”
Daniel’s abuse was perpetuated by a teacher who had been moved to his high school because of similar events that had happened at another school.
“To me, the cover up is a big part of the problem. This is one of the benefits of the Royal Commission - that the whole cover up will never occur again.”
Another benefit of the Royal Commission, he says, was that when he did come forward, he found others were willing to immediately believe him.
“When I reported it to the police last November, they just believed me and then followed through with an investigation. Just that belief, when people don’t doubt you, that's the benefit of the Royal Commission. People need to have a voice and people need to be believed.”
Now, with his new found voice, Daniel wants to help others find the courage to come forward.
“If my story can help anyone come forward - I know the weight off my shoulders in the past year. I know how different I feel being able to discuss it, so if my story helps anyone, jeez, if it helps one person, it will be worth it.”
Daniel is in the process of a common law claim through our Abuse law practice.