Paul Wilson lay on his belly in patchy grass under a gum tree, waiting for his father to come home. Tonight, they’d have rabbit stew. Dad would sing and strum the guitar. He’d tell wonderful stories, and then tuck Paul and Jenny into bed together in the crowded dirt-floor shack. Tomorrow, they would find broken branches, and Dad would whittle little dolls for Jenny. Despite poverty, the children were loved and happy… until that man came, and the bullshit began.
In September 1956, a Child Welfare Officer visited that little shack. In Paul’s words, “he burst in like Satan, unannounced and unwelcome, into an idyllic world. He came to tear that world to shreds, destroying my father’s pride and strength, parting loved ones, bringing terror and darkness into a world that had known neither.”
Seven-year-old Paul didn’t understand the persistent explanations, or promises of a ‘little holiday’. Charged in court with being ‘a neglected child’, he was sentenced to ‘be of good behaviour’ in an orphanage until his twelfth birthday. When that day came, a bureaucrat’s lies added three more years to his ‘sentence’. On his fifteenth, another lie condemned him again. Ultimately, he was denied freedom, and all contact with – or even knowledge of – his family, for eighteen years.
Paul was a stolen child… stolen twice. Like many other victims of flawed government policies of the time, he suffered abuse, deprivation and withholding of affection that scarred him for life. Bureaucrats, nuns and a misguided carer stole his identity, his heritage and his self-respect.
At age 59, Paul Wilson discovered the true nature of the crimes that led to his incarceration from age seven. He began a legal action for reparation, taking his lawyer, Ern Stanley, on a journey back in time.
A minimally fictionalised account of his journey from an Aussie bush home into an almost Dickensian world, The Pencil Case follows Paul through foster homes, a boys’ home, and an army training school. Throughout an eventful adult life, suffering seemingly endless injustice, he searches desperately for identity and acceptance. Haunted by demons from his past, he nurses an insatiable thirst for revenge.
Shocking and confronting, yet heart-warming and inspiring, Paul’s story evidences the beauty and strength of the human spirit and the amazing healing power of family love.
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