Alasdair’s father was a ‘drunk’ who never shared any money with the family, meaning that his mother was always poor. This did not diminish her determination to get her kids a good education, however. On several occasions Alasdair overheard her speaking with the Marist Brothers who ran his South Australian school, arranging for them to waive his school fees.
Looking back, Alasdair suspects that the Brothers chatted to each other about his family’s troubled situation and passed the information down the line until it got to his teacher, Brother Martin.
Brother Martin appeared to fixate on Alasdair as a vulnerable child whom he could sexually abuse without fear of being caught or punished. This abuse took place in the late 1940s, when Alasdair was about seven or eight years old.
‘Just before the bell rang at lunchtime,’ Alasdair recalled, ‘Brother Martin would give me a message or a parcel to take over to the Brothers’ house’.
He would walk down the road to the Brothers’ house and wait there until Brother Martin arrived. Brother Martin would then take him into a small room and sexually abuse him, usually by touching his genitals or lying on top of him.
Alasdair didn’t understand what the Brother was doing, but he knew he didn’t like it, especially the kissing.
‘He always said to me, “What’s the thing you do when you say goodbye to your mother of a morning when you go to school? And what do you do when you say goodnight to her when you go to bed?” And he convinced me that you’ve got to kiss her, kiss your mother. Shit. I’d kiss him, the bastard. I had to kiss him. I hated that.’
The abuse occurred four or five times. Alasdair didn’t report it to anyone at the time. ‘I was probably too scared. I was probably frightened out of my wits. I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t tell me mother, I couldn’t tell me father. He’d have gone berserk. So I bottled it up.’
Decades passed and Alasdair didn’t mention the abuse to his parents, his friends or his wife. Before coming to the Royal Commission, the only person he’d ever discussed it with was a representative of a support group for victims of child abuse.
Alasdair first contacted the group about 15 years ago. He said the conversation was a little awkward because the representative kept urging him to seek compensation, which he was not keen to do. Still, he signed up to receive regular bulletins from the group. When the first bulletin arrived he was shocked by what he saw.
‘I was quite staggered reading the bulletin – the extent of the religious orders that were doing this sort of thing. I was quite staggered.’
Alasdair had assumed he was the only one at his school to be abused, but has since discovered that there were many others.
Although Alasdair drifted away from the support group he continued to feel the need to talk about the abuse with someone. ‘Right through my life I’ve had this on my mind’, he said. ‘It comes back to me every so often. I try to get rid of it.’
Alasdair tracked down one of the old Brothers from his school days, a man whom he trusted and respected. He really wanted to open up to this man, but when he sat down to chat he realised that the Brother’s ‘mind had gone … so the chap that I wanted to confide in slipped me by’.
Recently the media attention surrounding the Royal Commission prompted Alasdair to speak out. He was pleased to get the chance to come in and tell his story. Talking to the Commission, he said, was a good way to get things off his chest.
Alasdair doubts that he’ll ever mention the abuse to his wife or family. It’s a difficult issue that has become more complex since Alasdair and his wife began to suspect that their son was sexually abused by one of his teachers.
‘If he ever brought it up then I would tell him my experiences, I think. That would get me an in-road straight away to say, “Look Tim, it happened to me too”. But I just don’t feel I could.’