Freedom after years in prison
AFTER a life of stealing cars and robbing banks, jail time was inevitable. However, what wasn’t so obvious was the man Russell Manser would become after spending 23 years of his life in prison. Now a free man, Russell uses his time helping young men to make better choices. As a teenager, Russell was exposed to horrific verbal, physical and sexual abuse at the Daruk boys’ home, for which he has since received a formal government apology.
MATT COLLINS: What sort of crimes did you commit to put you behind bars?
RUSSELL MANSER: I robbed a number of banks, stole cars and a whole lot of other stupid things.
MC: You have spent a lot of time in prisons. They are supposed to be a place of rehabilitation. Was it hard to adjust to the real world after your time in prison?
RM: It was, because I came out of there with a massive void inside me. This was a follow-on from the trauma I experienced at the Daruk boys’ home. You know, as a 15-year-old kid it is hard to understand emotions like depression or anxiety.
MC: Tell me about your time in the Daruk boys’ home.
RM: Well I had never even smoked a cigarette when I went into the boys’ home, but I quickly turned to drugs to help me cope with the amount of abuse I suffered. I was getting abuse every night. So I came out of there with huge anxiety, insomnia and massive nightmares.
MC: At 17 you were put into an adult prison.
RM: Yeah, and not only that, they put us in with pedophiles.
MC: How could they get away with doing that?
RM: I still don’t know, I can’t make sense of it. It was a nightmare. They gave me a mattress to sleep on the floor of a jail cell. I was abused from the first night I was in there.
MC: Did you let the prison guards know?
RM: Yeah, I went out the next morning and let the guard know, but he just laughed it off. He later told my abuser and then he really punished me. I was in hell, I really was. But I wasn’t the only one.
MC: Fast forward to today and you recently received an apology letter from the government because of the abuse you experienced at the Daruk boys’ home. Was that apology letter important to you?
RM: Oh, without a doubt. It was massive for me. I received a compensation payout as well, but they could have kept the money. I would’ve been happy with the apology letter alone.
MC: Why was that so important?
RM: Well, you are finally being acknowledged after all those years. Someone finally believes that what happened to you was wrong. I think once a problem is acknowledged, that is when you can fix it. And hopefully the next generation of kids won’t have to go through what I went through.