When he was a child, Rusty spent a lot of time going to church and doing bible studies with other Pacific families. He was fostered out to his father’s sister, and then went into a boys’ home as a teenager.
Rusty is from a large family, he has seven brothers and sisters – three of his sisters live over in Australia. Rusty would love to go to visit them and see his nieces, but he can’t – his criminal record now prevents him travelling overseas. Rusty has quite a few children himself, nine in total, (and 23 grandchildren) but he doesn’t see them. He doesn’t have a car, and is disqualified from driving.
Rusty has had trouble with drugs and alcohol – but he’s not taken drugs for over 30 years, giving up after a two and a half year stretch in prison. He also doesn’t drink so much anymore, saying he used to drink 24/7. Rusty has done a few prison sentences, for common assault, offensive weapons and stealing cars (when he was much younger). He found prison difficult as there was really nothing to do. He’s a keen artist – Rusty loves drawing, and picked up carving after watching others doing it in jail. He says ‘lots of stuff you need for art, they won’t give you when you are inside. Most of the guys get really bored.’ He also says that little is done in prison to prepare you for rejoining the community outside. Rusty tried really hard from prison to enrol to study when he came out, but between Work and Income and Studylink, his application was delayed and misplaced, and now he’s missed out on completing his course. His unemployment benefit was also held up, and he had to cope with no income at all for quite a few weeks after he was last released. He’s found the whole process really frustrating and he tries really hard not to get angry about it.
Rusty comes to the Soup Kitchen for dinner a few times each week, and sometimes has breakfast here too. What he wants most is ‘something constructive to do’. He’s held many jobs, mainly outdoors. He’s worked running a scrub cutting gang, building fences, spot welding and doing interior decorating. He’s done some study recently, and has enjoyed learning carpentry and electrical and electronic wiring. He’s also interested in learning about genealogy. He says that lots of the guys in similar situations to his are also bored, and want to ‘sleep the day away’. For many it’s a cycle: ‘Soup Kitchen, Courtenay’s [drop-in centre], food, Catacombs, sleep.’