As a student in a Catholic primary school in Sydney, Andre was ‘pretty happy’ for his first few years. However, one day he got into trouble for jumping a fence and one of the nuns took him to a secluded area and performed oral sex on him. He said this caused him a great deal of confusion because while his body felt good, his mind knew that it was wrong and shouldn’t be happening. He felt he couldn’t say anything to anyone because if he did he’d get the strap.
In the mid-1960s, Andre went from primary school to a Christian Brothers high school. He remembered the Brothers being extremely violent and freely using the strap not for reasons of discipline, but ‘out of cruelty’. In this environment, one of the lay teachers isolated and segregated him then fondled and raped him on multiple occasions.
Andre told the Commissioner that he didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because he was afraid of the Brothers who he was told were in direct communication with and representatives of God.
‘Who would you go to? You were just a kid. You wouldn’t go and tell the teacher.’
He was also afraid he’d been seen as homosexual which he was certain would lead to being beaten up by other students. At 15, Andre left the school after the headmaster started sexually abusing him.
The effect of the abuse on his life had been significant, Andre said. He described years of alcohol and drug abuse, transient living, estrangement from his family and the loss of his religious faith. He’d had over a hundred jobs and had never spent more than three months in one place. ‘I didn’t know my father had died for three months because I was cut off.’
He’d spent time in jail and still struggled with intense feelings of anger. When he was younger, he was extremely violent and looked for people with whom he could pick fights. ‘I went to seek out people and if they thought I was weak, I’d bash them.’
When Andre married and had children, life settled slightly, and although he and his wife later separated, they remained in daily contact. His current partner, Jan, with whom he’d been in a relationship for 10 years, was a stabilising force in his life.
Jan attended the private session with Andre. She described periods, particularly early in the relationship, where Andre struggled with intimacy. ‘He said, “I’ve never had these sort of feelings. I wasn’t allowed” … He didn’t say a lot and I didn’t push because he wasn’t ready.’ Andre had told her he’d never had any support. ‘And I said, “I’ll be standing behind you one hundred per cent and I’ll be there if you fall”.’