‘I felt like I was dying.’ Why Jimmy Barnes abandoned David Campbell when he was born.

“He wasn’t a problem, he was a beautiful boy. I guess I ran away from the responsibility of [being a parent],” he told journalist Stephen Downie in 2018.

“I just felt like I was dying. I thought there was no hope… it was just a matter of time before I died. That’s why I was trying hard to flee.”

What Barnes felt he had to flee from was the abusive upbringing he experienced in the South Australian suburb of Elizabeth. After his parents Jim and Dorothy Swan moved their young family from Glasgow, Scotland to Australia when he was five years old, Barnes’ childhood was filled with domestic violence, abuse and alcoholism.

The singer described the street his family lived on growing up as having made him “sick to his stomach”, that you could walk down that street and “within 100 yards feel safe or that your life was in danger.”

Much like his fractured early experiences of fatherhood with Campbell, Barnes said his parents ran to Australia away from their own problems.