After a friend suggested Alby join the navy cadets he ‘gave it a go’ and found that, initially, he ‘really enjoyed it’. For five years from his early teens in the 1970s, Alby participated in a Sydney branch of cadets. During this time he was sexually abused by one of the officers, Carl Mayer.
Alby thought Mayer was in a ‘slightly disgruntled marriage’. To boys and their parents he was ‘very amicable’ and surrounded himself with a group of cadets that became ‘like an exclusive club’.
‘We had a sanctuary where we could engage in adult activities unbeknownst to our parents’, Alby said. ‘It was an "us against the world" scenario.’
These activities included drinking ‘free booze’, smoking marijuana and ‘partying from Friday night to Sunday morning’. Mayer sexually abused many of the boys but they ‘didn’t really discuss it’. Instead, conversations tended toward talking about ‘chick scenarios’.
‘Most of which was a form of bravado. It was diametrically opposed to what was actually happening.’
Looking back, Alby thought Mayer ‘was an intelligent man’ but ‘incredibly self-centred and hedonistic’ and ‘it was all about his own gratification’.
Alby thought it likely that other officers were aware of the abuse ‘to a certain degree’, though in later years when Mayer was charged with child sex offences, one officer approached Alby and told him ‘he knew nothing about it’.
While Alby was still in his teens, Mayer arranged for him to have sex with his wife.
‘I lost my heterosexual virginity with Carl’s wife which is quite horrible when you think about it. That was a calculating thing by Carl because it meant that basically she was out of the picture …. That was something that was definitely orchestrated by Carl.’
Alby believed that at one stage a boy had reported Mayer to authorities and that Mayer was told to ‘clean up his act’. Mayer had left the cadets for about a year but later returned.
In the mid-1990s, after learning that several men had reported Mayer to NSW Police, Alby went forward to make his own report. It was decided that charges wouldn’t extend to include Alby’s allegations but he gave evidence for others in court. Mayer’s barrister successfully applied to have the charges heard separately. Mayer pleaded not guilty and was eventually convicted in relation to one complainant, but not others. Alby thought he’d been imprisoned for a period of less than two years.
After leaving school ‘in the last week of Year 12 without any qualifications’, Alby found himself ‘knocking around, not really doing much, not achieving much’. He’d ‘never finished anything’ and had had various difficulties with people throughout his adult years.
‘I definitely am the sort of person who puts himself out excessively for others lots of times and finds himself being take advantage of. Whether that’s just my make-up or whether that’s a result of this, it’s definitely to a fault. And I’ve also been very distrustful of governments and official bodies, police, a bit of an anti-social rebel a lot of my adult years …
It’s definitely affected my abilities and my achievements in my life.’
Alby’s first disclosure of the abuse had been to police, and he’d subsequently told his wife. The court case had been a bit of a turning point.
‘I’d been bumming around and you know hadn’t had a lot of direction or clarity in my life for a long time’, he said. After ‘all of this came out and it wasn’t an issue’ with his wife, and he felt ‘able to confront a lot of my demons’.
His wife had been ‘wonderfully understanding’ and Alby was now the main family carer.
‘I’m very lucky. At the end of the day I haven’t got two pennies to rub together but I live in a beautiful part of the world, I’ve got a lovely family.’