Hope at end of abusive journey
AT THE age of 14 Dennis Carroll was practically his own boss after he spotted the financial possibilities of South Australia’s tree felling industry.
Such entrepreneurial opportunism should have signalled a comfortable, rewarding life for the British native, but it has been anything but.
Mr Carroll was among the legions of people who received a formal apology last week from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, acknowledging the abuse and regime of unpaid labour they faced as young children after being forcibly sent to Commonwealth countries.
“It gave me a feeling of being recognised,” Mr Carroll, who moved to Maryborough two months ago, said yesterday.
British government records show that 150,000 children aged between three and 14 were taken abroad, mainly to Australia and Canada, as part of the program that ran from the 1920s until 1967.
Dennis Carroll was shipped out to Adelaide with his “family” in 1964 after he had been removed from an abusive existence in a Surrey orphanage.
He had suffered sexual, physical, mental abuse from a young age but his life was little better in Adelaide.
“The abuse carried on from the orphanage house to the family home. I kept being told I was a burden. I was like a dog.”
His schooldays were cut short when his adoptive mother presented a poverty certificate to education authorities saying the family needed him to work, and he became a child labourer supporting his family.
The psychological scars have endured for the 58-year-old.
“It’s because of you we don’t have anything,” he was told day after day.
“During my life I’ve had this really bad sense of self worth.”
When his initiative earned him a promotion from stump picking to tree felling, his mother still took two-thirds of his wages.
When the family returned to England – and he was forced to go with them – the money he had onboard was taken from him during the six-week voyage to Southampton.
“I felt I was being punished again.”
When the ship landed, he was abandoned and left to his devices.
He survived. Just. After building a life for himself he returned to Australia in 1986 with his second wife. That relationship, like his first marriage, inevitably failed.
“I’ve done very well in my life but whenever I go back to my childhood and the depression it brings, it just buries me.
“I’m amazed I’ve come out of it normal because my whole life has been an act.
“The anger used to come out of me. I could never argue with someone, I had been bullied so much. I had that dog inside me.
“Every time I got somewhere and was happy, I undid it.”