Educational opportunities were limited in the area Albert lived, so at the age of 10 he was sent to a Christian Brothers’ boarding school in South Australia.
After an ‘uneventful’ 12 months, Albert went into Grade 5 in the late 1960s where he had a new lay teacher, Mr Black, who showed an interest in him almost right away.
‘Mr Black was a large, untidy man who could be very pleasant, but at the same time, authoritarian and demanding. I remember he had bad breath. During class he would come up to me and say, “You have been a good boy, do you want a break?”’
Albert said Mr Black would find an excuse to take him into a private garden area to sexually abuse him, at least once a month.
‘He would lift my face up and kiss me and slobber on my mouth and push his hands into my pants and fondle me. He’d push his penis against my chest, and often had damp spots in his trousers. I soon felt threatened and overwhelmed. I was quite confused and frightened, I only saw my parents twice a year, so I felt I had no one to turn to.’
When Albert moved up a grade the following year, Mr Black was no longer his teacher and the abuse stopped.
Two years later, Albert left boarding school and returned to live with his parents, and said he did well academically throughout his remaining school years.
But since his boarding school experience, he told the Commissioner, he’s waged a long battle with drug and alcohol addictions.
‘I spent about six months in jail when I was 25 for violence and drug possession. I’ve spent time in various police lockups for being drunk and causing domestic disturbance. I’ve abused substances. I suffer terrible nightmares, sometimes wake up screaming and terrified.’
Albert has been married twice, and said for over 40 years he had ‘wiped off’ memories of the abuse.
‘The first marriage lasted about seven years, but it was a disaster. We had a daughter … but I haven’t seen her since she was four. My second marriage lasted about the same amount of time, and when that broke down I won custody of our son. There was physical abuse in both my marriages.’
Albert never told his parents about the sexual abuse, and said his relationship with them and his brother suffered as a result.
He also told of ‘always having problems’ with people in authority, and struggling to maintain employment despite having secured a number of well-paid jobs.
Haunted by nightmares, Albert finally revealed his story for the first time to his lawyer in the late 2000s, and spent three years in counselling before deciding to contact Towards Healing.
‘I was interviewed by two retired policemen. They weren’t delicate at all, it was like an interrogation room. They were showing me satellite images of a school that wasn’t mine. Their research wasn’t very good or they were trying to mislead me so I’d make an admission and they’d blow my case out of the water. They were so insensitive, there was no care.’
After the initial meeting, Albert said, he was invited to attend a facilitation session with a Towards Healing counsellor and school representative.
‘My solicitor thought there’d be a settlement, but it was purely a statement which took about three hours. Then I was left alone for well over a year, there was no contact from them but I kept on persisting. They offered me a pittance in my financial settlement, which I refused. It went back and forth until I finally accepted $20,000 which I split evenly with my lawyer. I expected a higher settlement considering it sent my life off the rails for 40 years. They promised a formal apology letter which I never got. The whole thing was just so traumatic.’
In return for the settlement, Albert said he signed a deed of release stating he’d take no further action against the Church.
He told the Commissioner he’s currently homeless but staying with his father.
‘I haven’t had an intimate relationship for over 13 years, I have no friends and still suffer nightmares. I continue to smoke marijuana and drink. It helps to get rid of the bad thoughts.’