Ally – who likes to be referred to as ‘they’ – told the Commissioner that there are two places in Melbourne that they wouldn’t go back to for a million dollars.
Ally was sexually abused by both parents but it was their father who made Ally wear dresses and demanded they get into bed with him. At the age of six or seven, someone reported that the children weren’t being looked after. Ally remembers the police turning up and being allowed to play with the police siren.
The siblings were taken to different places. Ally was taken first to a youth training centre for some months, and then a Catholic-run home. At first Ally thought that now they’d be well looked after, then quickly realised that wasn’t going to happen.
The boys in the home were treated harshly. Punishments included being made to kneel on bricks for half an hour and the loss of all privileges, such as visits and excursions. The Brothers would also pick the boys up by one ear and dangle them in midair. ‘To me, it wasn’t a school. It was a prison.’
The Brothers made the boys keep their doors open as they changed into their pyjamas at night. ‘We had no privacy with them. No matter what you did or where you went.’ They watched the boys in the shower and punished them for bedwetting by making them walk around naked.
Ally remembers that when they were eight or nine, one man in particular, Brother Jim, made the other boys go out and play while he kept Ally in the dormitory. Ally didn’t want to say exactly what Jim did because it was so ‘filthy’. But fear of punishment kept Ally compliant. ‘I didn’t do anything. I just laid there … I didn’t want a belting. I didn’t want a hiding.’
The abuse went on for a year. ‘And it was like living in hell because you couldn’t tell anyone. And if you told anyone, you were frightened. You were scared what was going to happen. So I had to live with it for a long, long time.’
When the boys turned 16, they were moved to a farm just outside of Melbourne which was run by the same order. Jim showed up at the farm one day. Ally told an older boy what he’d done and the boy promptly belted the Brother.
It was a moment of rare happiness for Ally. ‘It took two Brothers to get him off … I was happy he got what he deserved. But you don’t forget what they done. It never goes away.’
Ally later moved into a hostel run by another Brother. ‘He could be as mean as the devil. He made you do things. Like a slave … so I ran away.’
Ally says things in their life just never went right. They fell in with a bad crowd and ended up doing prison time. And there was never anyone to talk to about the sexual abuse. Nor was it reported to the police. ‘It was too disgusting’, Ally says.
Finally, after a serious car accident in the 70s, Ally disclosed to a psychiatrist. They then started seeing another psychiatrist regularly. Ally still sees him but isn’t happy with the sessions because the psychiatrist doesn’t really engage with, or look directly at, Ally.
Ally has been suicidal more than once because life has been so hard. No compensation has been sought. They didn’t see their parents again for at least 10 years, and never told on them. ‘I locked it up for a long time, Commissioner. I didn’t have the stomach to come forward.’
Ally recommended to the Commission that each priest should be properly screened by the police, before they even go to the Brotherhood. He wants the Church to be accountable.
‘It makes me feel a lot better, knowing something’s going to be done about them people.’