Angus Karl's story

Angus’s life may have turned on a single incident of violence in the 1950s. He grew up in a large Catholic family in Melbourne and was sent to a Marist Brothers school when he was nine years old.

‘The science teacher asked anyone in the room to put their hand up if they didn’t do their homework,’ Angus told the Commissioner. ‘Of course I was the only one in the room to put his hand up. He asked me to stand up … he walked down and without questions or anything he just punched me in the face and split my lip, broke my nose, cut all my gums, tongue - then sent me outside to wash up.’

At home Angus’s parents were unsympathetic. His father said, ‘You probably deserved it’.

Angus feared school after that and began truanting regularly. On the streets he was befriended by an older boy named Lenny. ‘He was a bit of a sexual deviant and showed me things about the human body that I knew nothing about.’

The incident that landed Angus in a boys’ home is unclear. He was on his way somewhere with Lenny, a small boy got in their way, and threats were made, Angus recalls. He soon found himself before a magistrate, falsely accused of attacking the boy and the (then) crime of buggery. He was unrepresented in court. ‘I know I didn’t get the chance to speak up for myself. I was guilty and that was it … my father didn’t protect me.’

Angus was sent to a state-run boys’ home for 18 months, where he was quartered with a boy of about 16. Very early in his stay Angus was sexually abused by his roommate. The experience terrified him. Angus had no idea what to do. The boy threatened him and told Angus not to tell. Angus has kept that secret for over 50 years.

A few days later Angus was moved to a dormitory with a lot of older boys. ‘I was punched and knocked around a bit for a start there, until I defended myself and got on top of it.’ Angus described pulling on a pair of boxing gloves and taking on one of the boys in a fight. After that he wasn’t picked on as much.

Eventually Angus was moved to a low security section of the institution and was able to sneak away at night. He began roaming the streets with a mate from the home and stealing cars. It was the beginning of a decade of trouble with the law.

‘That part of my life, when I was 10, just wrecked me life. I came out of the boys’ home and all I wanted to do was get out of the school, didn’t like the school, didn’t like home, didn’t want to do anything … it really turned me upside down.’

Angus took his anger out on the wider world. ‘I just went on a rampage, didn’t want to be told by anyone what was right and what was wrong.

‘It just made me angry towards everyone, especially people in authority. I had no time for police, or anyone.’

Angus had trouble trusting anyone, and this fed into issues with intimacy and his relationships. Angus has been married several times. He left his last wife in the early 90s and has been alone ever since.

Work has been Angus’s best strategy for dealing with his demons. ‘I worked hard. I was a good worker.’ Angus began with labouring, tried his hand at breeding livestock, and eventually founded a small company.

Angus has coped by not thinking about his childhood history. He has seen counsellors over the years, but has never disclosed the sexual abuse. His approach to the Royal Commission is the first time he has spoken about it since the 50s.

‘I just prefer to leave it. The only reason why I’m here is because it might happen to someone else in my shoes …

‘I don’t know what my father thought. I don’t know what my mother thought. I just couldn’t work it out why they allowed that to happen to me.’

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