On his first day boarding at an Anglican boys’ school in the mid-1960s, Albie was taken aside by the headmaster and told that he might find it difficult at the school because he was adopted.
‘I said, “Excuse me?” and he said, “You didn’t know?” I said, “No”. So that was the first I ever knew that I was adopted - when I was 12, almost 13.’
When his birthday came around, Albie celebrated it with a few friends in the private quarters of the chaplain, Jerry Dugan. It was school custom that boys were permitted in teachers’ rooms on special occasions. Albie grew to like Dugan, who he thought had probably been briefed by the headmaster to keep an eye out for the Year 8 student after that first day’s conversation.
In the months after his birthday Albie was invited back to Dugan’s room to view ‘his etchings’ and practise painting. ‘You’d sit down and he’d come around behind and sort of reach around and say, “No, you do it like this”’, Albie said. The chaplain then began massaging Albie’s shoulders and after a period of time, invited him on trips to the city. Boys weren’t allowed to leave school grounds so Dugan would get Albie to lie on the floor of the car covered by a blanket while they made their exit.
Albie told the Commissioner that Dugan soon began to give him alcohol and suggest that sitting on his bed would be ‘more comfortable’. Over a 12 month period, the sexual abuse escalated to rape. It stopped briefly when Dugan was transferred to another part of the school, but resumed when Albie went up in age and grade and was himself transferred.
As a young boy, Albie’s mother had once discovered burnt matches under his bed. Her punishment was to hold his hand over a gas flame until he got second-degree burns. On another occasion, she’d beaten him with a stiletto till he was bruised and bleeding and then told him that if anyone asked, he was to say that he’d fallen down the stairs. His father also regularly strapped him for misdemeanours that weren’t his.
Albie said against this backdrop he couldn’t disclose the abuse to his parents or speak up against the chaplain. ‘I had no idea who I could talk to, and I knew from experience my parents wouldn’t listen to me, so I really don’t know who I could have spoken to.’
The abuse stopped in the late 1960s when Dugan moved overseas. Albie left school after completing Year 11 and worked on cattle stations and did ‘fun stuff’ like parachuting, motorbike riding and rodeo work, ‘breaking every bone in my body’ along the way. He sought work that didn’t involve being with people ‘because all people were going to do was hurt you’.
In his 20s he married and had children. He had difficulty being intimate with his children and one day his parents-in-law asked his wife what was wrong that he couldn’t touch his own son. ‘He was probably nearly a year old before I could pick him up and cuddle him.’
Albie said he’d had a successful working life and in later years returned to university to study. The abuse though, seemed to overshadow everything. In 2000 he reported it to Victoria Police but before finalising his statement, had ‘a breakdown’, and was unable to complete the process.
‘Many, many times I’ve contemplated taking the easy way out and just writing myself off.’
He said he didn’t want the school to be ‘dragged through the mud’, but thought it important that the environment and circumstances change so that sexual abuse of children was less likely to occur. ‘I would say that these days a student should never be alone with a teacher, should never be alone one-on-one.’
It was only in the last few years, Albie said, that he’d come to feel less isolated in life. He’d started seeing a counsellor and had joined a men’s group for survivors of child sexual abuse.
‘The same as just in life, there’s a lot of little things that I did, or things that I do that I just thought it was just me, until I started going to the group. That it is very common with people that have been assaulted.’
‘You think you’re over it and then something very minor happens and it all comes back.’