‘My purpose for being here today is to tell my story. There are others who have suffered the most severe indignities and gross and abusive behaviour at the hands of those we are taught to trust. Those we thought had our souls as their interest.’
Alistair said, ‘The abuse began when the nuns used to physically punish and verbally abuse, to control me and I don’t really understand why they hit me and made derogatory statements about me’.
When Alistair was a child in Queensland in the 1960s, his mother told him stories about being placed in an orphanage and the dreadful things the nuns and the other girls did to her, ‘and I think it’s inter-generational … so it started with Mum physically attacking me as a child, then I’d go to school and they’d hit me and … say horrible things about my mother’. Alistair never knew his father, and was picked on at school because of this.
‘I joined the … choir when I was 11 or 12 … and it was a very honoured place to be as a young Catholic boy who enjoyed singing.’ Father William was Alistair’s parish priest, and he was also in charge of the prestigious choir at the nearby cathedral.
‘We went on choir camps, and this is where my abuse occurred … Father [William] would come into the shower areas when we were all naked. He frequently touched myself inappropriately around the buttocks and the upper thighs and around the genitals. It felt as though he was trying to force his finger between my buttocks, even when I had a towel wrapped around for modesty.
‘On one occasion, he touched me in such a manner that I reacted by slapping him and pushing his hand away and I think I told him to fuck off at that point. I think he realised that I wasn’t an easy mark, and at that point he stopped , but I’ve heard horrible things and this is just hearsay … stuff that I’ve heard from other boys that were in the choir’.
Father William would give the boys cigarettes and alcohol. ‘I always felt so scared that if Mum found out I was smoking cigarettes or whatever, I’d get into trouble and he used to say things to us like … “Well, I’ll just have to tell your parents” … there were always threats, and because we were taught to trust people of the clergy’.
Alistair knew that Father William had assaulted other boys in the choir, but he didn’t know how many. ‘There were stories that there were boys in the choir that had actually committed suicide, because they’d been hurt by him … and that was one of the things that tipped me over too, because I thought, if there are boys that that’s happened to, then I want to make sure that I speak up on their behalf as well.’
After leaving school Alistair had a very successful career for a number of years, ‘but the overwhelming feeling for me is, “I’m never good enough” … when my mother died, I became a heroin addict’.
Alistair said, ‘I never felt safe. I never had any respect for authority. I always thought authority was something for me to fight against, and it was going to hurt me, and it wasn’t really until I went into rehab that I started to think that there were underlying issues to why I was using addictively’.
After attending rehab, Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and counselling for many years, Alistair was able to control his addiction. He returned to study and became a teacher, a career he loves.
One day after class, Alistair came home and started crying. He realised that the boys he was teaching were the same age as he was when he had been abused. ‘I couldn’t understand how anyone, how an adult would do that to those boys … it was quite confronting to me.’
This prompted Alistair to contact the Royal Commission.
‘I just hope that … all the stories that come out, go some way to making sure that there’s not another couple of generations that have to go through this kind of stuff … and have lives that are affected. And people may say, “Oh, just harden up, toughen up, man up”... it’s not about that. The more I look at it, I think I would have made some different life choices had I not been … It made me very rebellious … and very distrusting of authority, and I think that colours the way I see the world still.’