Free­dom af­ter years in prison

South Burnett Times - - NEWS - COF­FEE CHATS MATT COLLINS

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.

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