AJ is a 31 year old who has been on the streets for most of his life. It's another sad story that people aren't aware of and think drug addicts like these have had it easy. Although he has caused so many victims pain and grief through his mild to violent crimes, he is a victim of drugs. He is currently trying to wean himself off Heroin and speed through sniffing paint, which is making him very suicidal and emotional. He just wants to be helped but no one cares.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood was really bad. I went from place to place and I grew up on the streets. I don't think I could of improved it in anyway but I wish I'd done things differently. I've been on the streets since I was eight years old and I didn't grow up with my real family. I was born in Tamworth NSW but I came over here with my foster parents (who abused me) when I was six. As a child, I was very confused, mixed up, I didn't have a stable home and I haven’t been able to this day, stay at a place for more than a couple of weeks. I've always got to keep moving. I would have liked my family or someone to say 'We love you, we care about you and we want you as our family'. I think what any kid wants, is for someone to love them, to show them love and give love and that's it. If you can't get that, well, what's the point of being around at all?
Did you ever commit crimes as a kid?
The group I used to hang around, were a mixed bunch. I would say I was the youngest – at 12 years old. We just walked around, broke into people's houses all day and did heaps of crime. I joined up school and I wasn’t learning anything and everything I was learning, I was learning on the streets and I was getting more education out of the street on how to steal cars, how to break into this place, how to do this and that. I didn't see the point of going to school and counting ABC and 123 to get into University. I was learning more and making more money from selling drugs than anything else.
When I was eight years old, we committed Grand Arson (there were about ten of us all up), burning a caravan park. We burnt down the caravans, the caravan park around it, the bushland and a few homes as well. I received a warning but a few of them got jail. We just didn't know at the time, what we were doing. We were all stupid. No one died. Detention back then was Longmore, Riverbank and Canning Vale Prison. I was actually sent as a sixteen year old to an adult's jail for four and a half years for stealing $180,000 cash which I stole from someone's house (break in and entering) from a cash register. No parole, no nothing! We went and spent up big, had fun and bought heaps of drugs.
I've committed so many crimes, it's unbelievable. I've done everything from burglaries, break in and enters, home invasions, to being accused of things, stealing, murder and rape. If someone can get you in trouble and get themselves out, they’ll do it. 90% of the time, even if you’re innocent, you’ll still be found guilty of that crime. A lot of the victims which I've had to go and steal something from, I feel for them. Yeah, they've had to work hard to get what they had but I've had to break into their houses because no one's given me the chance to go and work to get what they have. You say that we’re criminals and druggies but no one out there is willing to give us a chance. Okay, 'Here's work for that there, let him buy it. He wants to get off the drugs, let him get off the drugs’. There's no one out there to help us anymore because it's everyone for themselves.
When I committed the murder, I didn't feel guilty. I did what I did because of what had been done to me. Anger . . . just everything builds up to a point where you can’t take it no more and you snap. Once you hit that point, that's it, you don't care who or what's in your way. You snap! And if it's someone that you love, or hate that ends up getting hurt, so be it. It just happens.
Police are just police. They’re all out there to bring people down. They don't care who it is or who they hurt. Some do say that they care but half the time it's like, if you cared, why are you sending me to jail when all I was doing, was trying to protect myself or get a feed. I mean, the police are just out there for the job.
Have you ever OD?
On many occasions, on purpose, accidentally, just because . . . I don't know . . . you just feel alone and there's no one there for you. What's the point? What's the use? I may as well go kill myself tonight. You do it but someone always ends up finding you and saving you and it's like, ‘why did you save me? I want to kill myself and you're saving me and telling me there's a reason for me to live but there's not!!!’. I've had so many people die in front of me and I have to say the stuff I've been through . . . it's just not fair anymore. It's always drugs. Why can't someone come and help them, help me, not just when they want to help. I'm sick of it. The best thing that can help a drug addict, is to have someone sit down with them, who has been through the exact same thing they have been through. Going through the pain, the anger and the hurt and that really helps. And when you live the whole experience with them and say 'Yes, I've been there and I've done that. I know what it feels like', we’ll keep getting better but there's no one there who can do that.
I use Heroin, speed (amphetamines), coke (cocaine) and glue now. . . just anything that will get you high. But you can't really afford it. You sit on the streets begging for money and it might take you, say . . . half an hour to save up ten dollars. But you end up getting your ten dollars and hey, in the next twelve hours, you're happy (sniffing paint and glue). But it's like, what for? Parents can’t do anything. I was told 'Don't do mull' (marijuana), so I went and smoked mull. I liked it. I was told not to do speed, so I went and did speed. When you're told not to do something, you go and do it.
How can the government help?
The government can turn around to help people and get them off the streets. They know there's people out there who need to be detoxed, need to be drug free and need to be able to get their kids back. But they won't help them because if they help them, they're losing money. The more they help people, the less money they make. It's like if I asked you for two dollars and I was going to give you four dollars back, you'd double your profit. It's the same with the government. You're a drug addict, we won't help you but we’ll give you the drugs to help you (Centrelink money) get on. It's like you're giving us the drugs but you won't help us get off them.
90% of my Centrelink money goes to buying clothes, shoes, socks, showers and my cigarettes for the week. I pay my rent if I have somewhere to live like hostels and by the end of the day, your $350 is gone. It's like . . . where? Unless you go out stealing or selling drugs, there’s no otherway of getting an income.
The government needs to come out and live with us, then spend . . . what's a night? They say a night . . . we're homeless for a night but we're rich and famous, yet they're living under lights and cardboard boxes. That's not living on the streets. Come and spend a week with someone who literally lives on the street and eats where he eats and craps where he craps. If they kick us off the streets, where are they going to put us? If they're not going to give us houses and jobs and things like that because we're junkies and criminals, what do we do? We've got to live on the streets.
Have you ever had a job?
No. I can't hold a job because of my criminal history. They ask you, ‘Do you have a criminal history?’. You say ‘Yes’. ‘We can not employ you because you have a criminal history. 'Have you been known for drugs?’. ‘Yes’. ‘We can't employ you because you use drugs’. And it's like, what can you do? You can't do anything. As soon as you've used drugs or you have a criminal record, literally . . . you're stuffed.
What is life like now?
I can't imagine the possibilities of having a really good home. I mean, I could sit there and say I could have a car, house, money and a wife. People out there say they've got a good house, my mum loves me and I mean, they want to come and spend a week with someone who doesn't have a mum or dad that loves them or a mum and dad that's died and spend a week walking around the streets and see how they live and how they survive. People just don't understand no more and they won't understand, they can't understand. They think everything is down the line, there's no problem when there’s so many people in hospital who won't be given the help they need.
I want to be helped. I've asked for help and I keep going around in the same circle. The same situation, over and over again. It's the same thing everyday. Drugs and money. I've never been able to detox. I've never been able to do it because I've never had the willpower. I just can't do it. It's something each person has to be able to do individually and until that person is willing to be able to do that there, there's not a thing that anyone else will be able to do to be able to do it for them. If that makes any sense. (AJ laughs through his tears).
The streets aren’t safe. No matter what happens, there's always going to be something going on somewhere. There will never be a safe street in the whole world. The bloke next door might do drugs. If he doesn't, he knows someone who does and he's associated with it and it all goes in a circle.
When I’m really desperate, I sit back and sniff petrol, glue, break into people's houses and I'll literally mob someone for their last $2 just so I can get something to put in my stomach. Why can't people out there be saying ‘well, you shouldn't have to rob people to do what you're doing . . . to get food into your stomach. We'll give it to you'. If people are that concerned about the street problems, why can't they say 'well righto, we can see you're starving, we can see you haven't eaten and you're hanging and you're coming down, well, here look man, we can give you a feed, we can give you a drink but that's all we can do’. Why can't people be more considerate for each other and for others.
In ten years time? I take each day as it comes and it's like, ten years time, I don't know. I could be dead. I could be dead tomorrow. I'm not scared of death. I take each day as it comes and there's nothing I can do to change it.
After this interview, AJ completed an eight week detox session at a local hospital. He remained clean (of drugs) and began to focus his energy and time staying on the right track and working as a farm labourer in the country. The best way he found to get off drugs and get somewhere in life, was to change his crowd and stay away from the low-life city scene. A year later, nobody knows of where he is but rumours have it that he was killed.