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Ainsley's story

Ainsley came to the Royal Commission to speak on behalf of her son, Robbie, who passed away in the early 1990s.

She brought with her a piece she had written for her family. In it she wrote, ‘A rock was thrown into my pond of life and my life was never the same again. The effect has lasted as long as my life and will only finish when I do’.

Ainsley was brought up in the Assemblies of God Church from the age of 10. ‘You become involved in the church, your whole life exists within the church,’ she said. ‘Your friends are in the church, your children’s friends are in the church, everything revolves around being in the church family.

‘That was our life.’

Robbie was born in the mid-70s. Ainsley wrote that he was ‘happy and loving and I thought the sun shone from him’.

About 10 years later when they were living in Adelaide, Ainsley and her family met a man through the church who would take families and children out on his boat. She recalled being told by fellow parishioners that Wilf was a sweet old bloke who was very good with kids.

After getting to know him Ainsley wrote that she thought of Wilf as a ‘stand-in grandparent’, and Robbie was allowed to go on his boat.

‘How do you ever know at the time that you are making the biggest mistake of your life that would cause such devastating endings?’

After coming back from one fishing trip, Ainsley noticed that Robbie wasn’t himself. ‘So I just asked him what was the problem, and out it came.’

Wilf had sexually abused the boy, touching his genitals and making him do the same.

‘I remember vividly standing there in the kitchen with a bread knife in hand and telling my husband if [Wilf] walked through that door right now I would kill him.’

Ainsley immediately rang the police, and two officers came to the house and spoke to Robbie. But when the church was told about Wilf, Ainsley was informed that the matter would be dealt with ‘in-house’.

‘I found out afterwards that they knew about him. And that’s what upset me too because they knew and were protecting him and not protecting the kids.

‘And saying that, you know, “He’s all right, he’s saved now, he’s a Christian” … that’s the worst thing, that they can allow that under the banner of religion.

‘Predators love being in this place because they think they are safe. The ministers believe they can fix things and keep the person on the straight and narrow. How wrong they are.

‘It all could’ve been prevented, the whole thing.

‘It’d be a different life.’

Wilf was later convicted of sexually abusing another boy. It wasn’t his first offence. Robbie was too young to go to court, and he never spoke to Ainsley about what happened again.

Over the next few years Robbie changed. Ainsley said he became rebellious, drinking and experimenting with drugs. He also began self-harming. Ainsley later learnt that Robbie and his friends would dare each other to see who could stand the most pain.

In his mid-teens, Robbie died from an overdose.

Ainsley remembered going to the hospital to see his body. ‘I looked at him … and I begged God to let him breathe.’

Afterwards Ainsley said she was offered no support from the Assemblies of God. In fact, she never heard a word from them. ‘I was just left to pick up all the pieces.’

‘I thought, well, “What is this church all about, what is church all about, what’s being a Christian all about, when they can’t actually look after the people that were in their community?”’

In the years since, Ainsley has never had counselling. ‘I keep that buried, the emotional side of it, because I have to.’ Not for herself but for her other son, who has battled his own demons including drug addiction, anger and depression. ‘He doesn’t live one day without thinking about [Robbie]. He brings him up all the time. And I can’t get him past that.

‘I’m strong because I have to be strong for him, every day.

‘If I crack up, just lock me in a rubber room for a week and I’ll be fine. Just let me out after a week to get over it, because I will pick myself up and just keep soldiering on. That’s me.’

When telling the Commissioner about the piece she had written, Ainsley said, ‘My biggest intent was, I can’t change my life but I want things to be different for other people, in the church particularly’.

She wrote, ‘If you’re a parent be aware of who your children are with when not with you, playing sport, at church, any outside activities even with family members. Ask questions about the people you are leaving your children in care with. Ask about school teachers, scout leaders, etc. Be vigilant, your children are a gift to you, take care of them’.

After Robbie died, Ainsley scattered his ashes under a tree in his favourite park.

‘I continue to watch the tree grow, not making a fuss over this, just a silent thought each time.’

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