Sid Harta Publishers
13 March 2005 IF LIFE followed a logical pattern, Steve Murphy would probably be behind bars. Abandoned by his mother as a baby, he was raised by an alcoholic father who later went to jail for rape, leaving the boy with a cruel and abusive stepmother. Leaving school early with a limited education, Murphy went to live alone in Sydney as a 15-year-old. He had no family, no belongings and, it appeared, not much of a future. But the young bloke did have two things: a determination not to be like his father and a dream of becoming a police officer. It took 13 long years, via the army and the prison service, for Murphy to achieve his goal. Today, the 39-year-old is an officer with the Queensland Police Service, stationed at Clermont, 100km north of Emerald. In his free time, he talks to groups of children at schools, libraries and community organisations about his life ? and theirs. "What I hope people get from it, is that no matter where they come from, their background or their upbringing, regardless of the circumstances, with guts and determination, hard work and a goal, you can achieve what you want in life," he said. "You can break the cycles of poverty and violence. You can choose to break out of it." He says that as a young man, he went off the tracks. "I made mistakes and had to overcome them. I tell the kids to learn from my mistakes and not make it harder on themselves." He has now told his story in a book, The Pyjama Boy, and is touring the country. The book takes its title from the name kids used to taunt Murphy while he was growing up in the rough Sydney suburb of Redfern. His oppressive step-mother Nina allowed him just 15 minutes to sprint home from school every afternoon. His punishment for being even a minute late was to be thrashed about the legs, body and face with the electrical cord from a jug. After the belting, he was ordered into the bath and forced to put his pyjamas on by 3.30pm. While dinner, almost always stew, was heating on the stove, Nina would send him to the shop to buy her cigarettes ? and Bex powders ? to the great amusement of the neighbouring kids. "They would laugh and chant, 'Pyjama boy! Pyjama boy!' and Murphy would lower his head in abject humiliation'," he writes in the book. After eating however many portions of stew Nina ordered him to, Steve was sent to bed by 4.30pm and ordered to be asleep within 10 minutes, under threat of another flogging. His stepmother would then settle down in front of the TV and drink herself into a stupor, while Steve sat in wary silence watching from his bedroom window the other kids playing in the street. That was his life every day for five years until his father was freed on probation and, on hearing of the abuse, sent the 11-year-old to live with an aunt and uncle on a property near Port Macquarie. He struggled at school and fell into the role of class clown to gain acceptance. At home, he was exploited on the farm to the further detriment of his studies. A turning point came when he was 14 and stole a purse from the home of an elderly woman. He was arrested and put on a 12-month behaviour bond, with the threat of being sent to a boys' home hanging over him. "Everyone said I was going to be in jail at 18. I wanted to be different to my father." But Murphy bears no animosity towards his now-dead father. "He committed a very serious offence, which I'm very disappointed in, and I don't condone what he did," he said. "But he was the only person who showed me any kind of affection and love, even though it was sporadic." Perhaps more surprisingly, he is not angry at the mother who abandoned him, or the step-mother who made his childhood such a misery. "I have no hatred, just disappointment." At 27, Murphy finally traced his biological mother Doris Park, who also used the surnames Rowell and Coggan. They had "a very clinical and sceptical reunion" before she was killed in a car accident just weeks later. But there were more shocks to come. While writing the book, he discovered his mother had at least 11 other children who had all been adopted out. He has since met five half-brothers and hopes to find his other siblings. "It's very important to me. You need a link to your blood relatives." Murphy credits his former wife and their two children with inspiring him to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a policeman despite repeated knockbacks. He was rejected by every police service before Queensland gave him a chance to prove himself. Now he hopes his story will help other young people to never lose sight of their dreams. A percentage of sales of the book will be donated to Anglicare's prevention programs for youth. ?The Pyjama Boy by Steven Murphy is published by Sid Harta Publishers; $24.95.
FOURTH PRINT RUN! Steven Murphy, the Pyjama Boy, has been a police officer for more than ten years.These days he speaks to the youth of Australia, illustrating to them how he overcame phenomenal hurdles to reach his ultimate goal. Read more about “The Pyjama Boy”