‘I’m doing this for my mother. The nuns stole me from my mother when I was a baby because I was born out of wedlock. She conceived me in Ireland and was banished by the Church in Ireland and had to go to England to have me … 57 years later, I met her.’
In the late 1940s, Aloysius became one of the thousands of children sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Scheme. He was 11 years old and remembers terrible scenes from the time of his arrival in Fremantle as children were separated from friends and siblings and sent in different directions to children’s homes and orphanages.
Aloysius was sent to a Christian Brothers boys’ home and during the five years he was there suffered repeated and sustained sexual abuse by the principal, Brother Gregan, as well as nine other Brothers and a Benedictine priest.
In a written statement and in speaking with the Commissioner, Aloysius said that corporal punishment was routine at the home and Gregan was particularly violent, beating boys with his cane and fists and kicking them while they were on the ground bleeding. ‘Punishments were frequently carried out as public spectacles causing children to wet themselves in fear’, Aloysius said. ‘It happened to me many times.’
Children received no education and laboured on the farm and for construction projects. They erected a three-storey building by quarrying and transporting materials and working with only basic tools. The boys suffered lime burns on their bare feet and were ‘beaten like prisoners on a chain gang’. Gregan was a vain man, Aloysius said, and the construction of buildings was for his own personal glory.
‘I was sexually abused by Brother Gregan for five years, from the age of 11 until I was 16 … Gregan was a terrifying figure … he kept a small pool of ‘pets’ – boys he used for sexual gratification and kept around him all the time. I was one of those boys.
'While I was there I didn’t understand what he was doing to me and thought I was somehow privileged because he would take me into his bed and sometimes tell me I was a very special boy.’
Gregan’s ‘chosen boys’ weren’t exempt from punishment but they came to regard themselves as having a place of status in the home. As well as fondling and making Aloysius masturbate him, Gregan forced Aloysius to reciprocate oral sex. Aloysius differentiated between the sexual abuse by Gregan – which unlike his usual manner, wasn’t violent – to that of the other Brothers which included rape. Over time, Aloysius stopped resisting and came to re-imagine himself as a willing participant in Gregan’s abuse.
Aloysius said that, until he was in his 50s, he had no words or real understanding of what was done to him in the home. He hadn’t ever married, and when he’d tried to tell friends about his experiences, they’d thought the stories too barbarous to be true.
In the early 70s, Aloysius spoke with journalists and described the conditions of life under the Christian Brothers, and for the first time he felt believed. Momentum grew as further reports came forward of abuse and neglect suffered by children under the Child Migrant Scheme.
In the mid-90s, the Christian Brothers were offering boys who’d been in their homes $2,000 on the condition they sign a deed of release. Aloysius didn’t accept the money because he believed the amount was inadequate and thought it suspicious the same law firm was working for both ex-residents and the Brothers. He later received $45,000 as part of Redress WA.
When Aloysius found his mother in England, she was in her 80s and very frail. ‘One of the worst things in my life, I’d never had the chance to hug my mother’, Aloysius said. ‘And the first thing she said, “Where have you been all these years?” And that’s a mother, she knew I was out there, but where?’