Back in Sydney in the early 1980s, Alek was one of the few kids who had access to a home computer. By the time he entered Year 6 at his Catholic primary school, he had developed a bit of a reputation as a computer enthusiast. The principal, Brother Conlon, heard about Alek’s reputation and asked him and his friend Chris to set up some computers in the school library one Saturday morning.
When Saturday came, Alek and Chris met with Brother Conlon and followed him to the library. Alek told the Commissioner, ‘I don’t remember setting the computers up, because they were already there. I do remember going under a desk to plug a cable in, we were asked to plug some cables into a computer and that sort of thing. And I remember as I was coming out, he tried to tickle myself, and he did the same thing to Chris’.
The tickling escalated to Brother Conlon grabbing at Alek’s penis and trying to put his hand down Alek’s pants. Alek pushed him away. The whole incident happened so quickly that he thought maybe it was some kind of mistake or accident, but then he saw Brother Conlon doing the same thing to Chris and he knew that something was wrong.
When he got home Alek immediately told his mother what had happened. ‘She just completely broke me off and said, “No, that couldn’t have happened. You’re wrong, there’s no way that that would happen, he’s a Brother, that stuff doesn’t happen”.’
Alek felt confused and started to doubt whether the incident had really happened. These doubts lodged in the back of his mind and would come to have serious consequences in his teenage years. But for now he simply tried to put the whole matter behind him.
A short while after the incident, Brother Conlon took Alek aside to punish him for some misdemeanour and gave him a strapping that was far more brutal than usual. But he made no mention of the incident and never sexually abused Alek again.
Several years later, when Alek was about 15, he had a series of unsettling encounters with the family doctor. At the time he didn’t know whether the doctor was following normal medical procedure or not.
‘He would always say he was doing a check-up on us, and he would check our penis and the genitalia, but he would do it for a long time, and every time you’d go in he’d go and do a check-up. And I thought, because I was told, “This is normal. Just stay there, don’t move”.’
Alek didn’t mention the abuse to anyone because, by then, his doubts had resurfaced. ‘One possible issue of my mother not taking me seriously was that … I kept quiet about a lot of things because I wasn’t so sure.’
15 years later the matter was finally brought into the light. ‘I completely blocked it out of my mind for so many years until my brother one day sat down and said, “Did this ever happen to you?” I said, “Yeah, it happened to me but maybe he was just checking us rather than doing anything wrong”. It took a lot of convincing to work out that actually what happened went on for a long time and it was completely wrong.’
The doctor was charged and went to trial. For complicated reasons that he still doesn’t understand, Alek was not allowed to appear as a witness. His brother did, and endured a difficult process that did not end well. The jury was unable to reach a verdict and the doctor walked free.
The case against Brother Conlon came to a much better result. He recently pled guilty to sexually abusing several boys during the 1970s and 1980s and was sent to jail. Alek knows some of Conlon’s victims and said that they are finding it hard to speak about what happened to them. He said that part of the reason he came to the Royal Commission was to give these men ‘a bit of strength’ to help them come forward and tell their own stories.