The day his trust in the Church was broken stands out clearly in Alan’s mind. A Catholic priest had come to his family home in Melbourne offering support to 15-year-old Alan and his father following his mother’s funeral in the mid-1960s. He remembered initially feeling comforted by the priest’s presence.
Alan told the Commissioner, ‘My father had just lost his partner of 25 years, and I was glad Father Robertson was there for him. Later the priest took me out to his car supposedly to comfort me – I can still see the shoulders of his black robe covered in dandruff. He was a little man, and just reeked of tobacco. He started rubbing my leg in a sexual way and started groping my genitals.
‘I sat there like a stunned mullet, then something suddenly clicked and I jumped out of the car’.
Alan made a conscious decision not to tell his father about the incident with Father Robertson, and almost 50 years later, he still regrets his silence.
‘I sometimes wish I’d spoken up because I think of the grief this bloke must have inflicted on so many other kids and maybe I could have stopped it, but deep down I know I would not have been believed against a priest, they were revered back then. I probably would have been belted.’
Alan lost his faith following the abuse, and feels robbed of the spiritual life he may have enjoyed if not for the priest’s actions.
‘Some may see it as a one-off event, but what Father Robertson did to me had a profound impact on my life and I’m still outraged. I never went to church after that unless there was a birth, death or marriage. I was quite a bright fellow, but developed a problem with authority and was asked to leave the school at the end of the year. I suffered confusion over my sexuality that took years to resolve and perhaps worst of all, my father and I became quite alienated. The secret came between us.’
In the early 2010s, Alan contacted Broken Rites and was advised to contact the police.
‘The police were extremely helpful, and I gave evidence against Father Robertson at the committal hearing. It was a very confronting and gruelling process, but satisfying because I felt he was finally being brought to justice. I wasn’t the only one there providing evidence against him either, there were quite a few others, and I understand the trial will be later this year.’
Alan expressed concerns to the Commissioner about what he sees as the Catholic Church’s apparent lack of care for those who’ve experienced sexual abuse within its community.
‘I don’t see any steps being taken to stop this sort of thing from happening again, there’s no compassion. All I’ve seen is pushback from Pell and his mates. They just don’t seem to get it, people’s lives have been destroyed and their response is to move heaven and earth to protect their assets. You’d think when you get such a volume of people standing up and complaining, the Church would ask itself – “can they all be wrong?”’