A former bank robber and criminal in his career has revealed how he changed his life after being sexually assaulted in a children’s home and back in prison and plunged into a vicious cycle of crime and violence.
Russell Manser, then 17, recalls a prison guard saying ‘happy, boys’ when his mattress was thrown on the floor of the cell where he lived with two men in the Long Bay prison guard wing used to house guilty children. .
Manser’s history of imprisonment began when he was 15 years old when he was out with his friends on Saturday night and made the drug-inspired decision to steal a dice in Parramatta, west Sydney.
What followed was a fierce police search where the young man could not even reach the pedal, and eventually crashed into a stolen car.
‘It was often you would drive cars on phone books. I saw other children, one kicking and the other driving, ” he told the Daily Mail Australia.
Manser was sent to Daruk Boys Home in Windsor, a town in northwestern Sydney, for six months and within a few days he was sexually abused by the guards.
Russell Manser (pictured right) was sexually abused at the infamous Daruk Boys Home School in Windsor, northwest of Sydney and later at the Long Bay Correctional Center as a teenager.
Manser stole five banks in the early 1990’s, while one stole $ 90,000 from the Commonwealth Bank in Lane Cove (pictured, CCTV footage from within one bank)
“The first night I saw the staff grab the children from the beds and take them to the ablution hall,” he told ABC’s Australian Story.
‘The second or third night I smelled one of the workers blowing on me, and he was breathing like a sewer.
‘He took me to the ablution building and sexually abused me.’
Authorities have since encouraged any man who attended the school between 1965 and 1985 to attend. In 2018, it was reported that at least 80 victims filed cases of sexual and physical abuse at home.
Manser, the youngest of six children, was raised on Mount Druitt in western Sydney.
His parents were ‘ten pounds’ who moved from Liverpool to support their large family with factory work, his mother working in a plastic factory.
“There was no problem, there was no domestic violence or alcoholism in my family who grew up on Mount Druitt,” Manser said.
However Manser could not help but see how special treatment was provided for returning inmates who were hailed as ‘waiters’ in his neighborhood.
The men had new cars, nice clothes, and a nice girlfriend, which impressed the young man who was desperately looking to be distracted by what he saw as a miserable life.
‘I always saw people destroying * not theirs. The only people who showed any kind of wealth were criminals, ‘he said.
‘Get up at five in the morning in the middle of winter and walk to the bus station to work in the factory for 10 hours.
‘They seemed sad and it really didn’t bother me.’
Manser, the youngest of six children, grew up on Mount Druitt in western Sydney (Manser is pictured, left, with a former bank robber and author John Killick, who wrote a book about Manser)
Manser was 17 when he stole a Porsche from the wealthy suburb of Whale Beach on the north shores of Sydney.
He was given a 12-month adult sentence at Long Bay Correctional Center to send a stern warning to other criminals who want to become criminals in Mount Druitt.
Manser admits to being disgusted with the sentence and said that in comparison to other children in prison, his criminal history was minimal.
“It was illegal for any of us to exist, the way they did it is illegal because they had to go through the Attorney General,” he said.
‘The courts did not have the power or the authority to do so directly. Lawyers had to say “this child has been illegally imprisoned”.
“That inability to communicate with family services, child safety and say these children are at high risk. There is a responsibility to take care of there and they failed to do so.”
Manser was sexually assaulted by two men within hours after arriving at One Wing, a popular security unit used to protect convicted children.
He remembers the prison guard saying ‘happy boys’ with his mattress thrown on the floor of their cramped cell.
The young man was abused a few days later by a third prisoner, who gave him his first heroin shot as payment for his silence.
Manser (pictured) was just 17 years old when he stole a Porsche from a luxury Whale Beach resort on the northern shores of Sydney.
In an assessment conducted four weeks after his arrival, the psychologist said he was most likely to have been sexually abused in Long Bay.
Manser left prison with his former personality and suffered from heroin addiction.
He continued to rob five banks in the early 1990s, while one stole $ 90,000 from the Commonwealth Bank in Lane Cove north of Sydney.
Manser committed five robberies within a few months, without stopping to consider the impact he had on clerks and fearful witnesses.
By age 23, the offender had been sentenced to 15 years in prison, with a non-parole period of seven and a half years.
Upon his release, Manser began his career as a physical education teacher, marrying and entertaining two boys around the world.
Yet a brief period of peace was interrupted by memories of his abuse, which were hard to ignore.
Her marriage broke down and Manser eased the pain of drugs and alcohol, returning to his bank robbery – this time leaving fingerprints.
Back in prison, he discovered ‘much’ needed to change.
Former bank robber and biographer John Killick wrote the book The Voice of a Survivor describing how Manser (pictured with his girlfriend) changed his life.
After seeing the Royal Commission’s announcement on the Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse, Manser found the strength he needed.
He wrote to the commission and was visited by a representative, before finally receiving an amnesty from the NSW government and compensation, three decades after the abuse at Daruk Boys Home.
When asked about the possibility of confronting his abusers in Long Bay, who he says are dead, Manser asks what the purpose would be.
‘I don’t give a damn, I’ve done a lot of work on that in relation to holding a grudge and what works and you know, I tried very hard to stop those things. It ‘s hard for a couple of days, “he said.
Manser said he received the arrest when he admitted that what happened to him in Daruk and Long Bay was not his fault.
‘It takes a lot of practice, it takes a long time. I want a state of peace, ‘he said.
Manser now runs an advocacy group that helps reunite victims of abuse, inmates and former inmates with legal advice, treatment and rehabilitation.
It started when some prisoners began to suspect that he was beating the police when in fact he was on the phone with the Royal Commission.
Manser (pictured with his partner) now runs a support and advocacy group that helps reunite victims of abuse, inmates and former inmates with legal advice and rehabilitation.
After announcing this to the prison yard, several inmates asked how they could share their stories of abuse.
‘That is where the Voice of the Survivor was created. I had this way of people telling me their stories and feeling comfortable, ‘he said.
Manser now boasts 12 employees who work to connect their 13,500 clients with 36 law firms after starting the business on a laptop that he did not know how to use.
‘It is fortunate to be in this position. It is a real privilege when people trust me with their inner and dark secrets. It’s very exciting, ‘he said.
When asked what advice he would give his youth before he lost control of his life, his answer was simple: ‘Trust in yourself’.
“Now I sit in the conference rooms with these types of lawyers and my boyfriend asked me how I could talk to these people,” he said.
‘I told him I was just confident, and it was one of the first times I spoke openly.’