During the 1950s, Alistair’s greatest aim was to go to university. His education at an Anglican boarding school suffered however, when an ex-student of the school befriended him and under the guise of encouraging an interest in science, took Alistair away from the school and sexually abused him.
Alistair estimated the age of the ex-student, Jack Dennis, as 24. The abuse continued over two years, by which time Alistair had gone from a promising student to one with poor grades who kept failing exams. On one occasion, he arrived back at school upset and crying after he’d been abused by Dennis, and when the housemaster saw his distress and heard him swearing, he was taken to a study and caned six times.
‘By the time I was in fourth year, 15 years of age, my behaviour was at the state where my father was called to the school and by mutual consent I was removed from the school’, Alistair said. ‘I felt totally dirty, worthless, useless, and my only wish was that life would end. My education suffered and I just scraped through.’
Alistair went on to a successful career, but forever regretted his lack of education and qualifications. ‘The sexual abuse has limited my quality of life and limited my career prospects, and robbed me of the confidence I should have’, he said. ‘I have been diagnosed with PTSD and to this day have an unreasonable fear of authority. If the boss of whatever job I was in wanted me in his office I would enter trembling with fear when nine times out of ten it was for a pat on the back.’
Alistair told the Commissioner that he first disclosed the abuse at the age of 50 in the 1980s, to his wife. He hadn’t done so before because he was concerned Dennis might himself have a wife and ‘a respectable family’.
In the early 200s, Alistair tracked Dennis down and rang to confront him. ‘The thing I remember about talking to him was he treated me like a long lost brother and then I broached the subject – what he did and why he did it. He said it was because it happened to him. I said, “That’s no excuse. We’re all responsible for our own actions. We take our own decisions in these things.” You can’t blame someone else for what you do, even though people do. On thinking back to how his father treated me with contempt and on what he said – there was no remorse or sorrow for what he had done – you would think the first thing you would try and do is to put matters right somehow, but there was none of that. I guess that’s just how it is.’
At around the same time, reports started to surface in the media about sexual abuse of children by members of the Catholic and Anglican clergy. Alistair said it was the catalyst for him to report the abuse to the Anglican Archbishop. ‘He didn’t want to know about it’, Alistair said. ‘He said, “If you have any problems, go to the police”. Run for cover, down come the shutters. Don’t want to know.’
Alistair spoke with an Australian Capital Territory police officer who he found very helpful, but he was dissuaded from further action because of her advice that he’d have to be prepared to go to court, testify and be cross-examined as a witness. ‘I said, “I’d sooner not do that”. I said, “We’ll just forget about it”.’
For the two years of his abuse, Alistair was repeatedly taken alone by Dennis and abused in Dennis’ home and in his car. No one ever questioned him or the arrangement. He recommended that young people in groups like cadets, scouts, schools and recreational activities never be allowed to be taken away from proper adult supervision.
When his children were growing up, Alistair said he was always vigilant. ‘I watched them like a hawk. And no one got past me to get to them.’
His family and having a strong work ethic and a deep Christian faith had been sources of strength and helped him through difficult times, he said. ‘I think if a person leads a balanced life in the workplace, their social life, and church life as well, then that puts a balance on it.’