Anton's story

‘He used to get us to do reading around the class, then he’d just shove the guy out that was sitting next to you, the pupil, and just sit next to you and get you to read. Then he'd start to invade your privacy.’

Anton said it became routine for him in the early 1960s as an eight-year-old to have De La Salle Brother Phelan put his hands down his shorts and fondle his genitals.

‘I know he was always someone that I’d not feel comfortable around. It was just something you got used to. It was common practice and being so young, I went, “Oh well”. I never told anyone about it.’

The De La Salle Brothers at his New South Wales school were very friendly with Anton’s devout Catholic parents, and his father knew many of them through work. Given the atmosphere of the time, Anton said he would never think to tell his parents or teachers what Phelan was doing. The Brothers were ‘hard men’, he said.

‘The strap was wielded for anything out of the ordinary or not even for that reason – just because you might have answered the question wrong or you looked sideways.’

Anton told the Commissioner he wasn’t sure what effect Phelan’s behaviour had on him in later life. In high school he found it difficult to concentrate, and put the abuse out of his mind.

‘It’s always been there in one form or another, but it’s never been a go-to thing to say, “Hey that’s why I’ve acted this way” or “I’ve done this”. I don’t know. I probably as a rational person think, well it must have had some impact but I don’t know to be quite honest and I never gave it that thought.’

Around 2013, Anton said he ‘got angry’ as news reports surfaced about sexual abuse of children by priests and Brothers. He got in touch with an organisation collating people’s accounts of being abused and decided to add his story. In the process he found out that Phelan, now deceased, was mentioned by others as an offender.

At the suggestions of others, Anton pursued a civil claim against the Catholic Church and in 2015, received $170,000. The process was completed quickly; the Brothers apologised and accepted without argument that the abuse had occurred.

Anton began seeing a psychiatrist several months before coming to the Royal Commission. ‘I don’t know whether I find it very helpful to be quite honest’, he said. ‘I’m doing a lot of talking and not receiving a lot of feedback, other than, “See you next session and we’ll talk about something else”. He said he was thinking of trying a different therapeutic approach, one which offered ‘something tangible’.

‘I’m finding this whole thing is getting me hopefully to a better place and helping me understand stuff. Going through the process originally, I was very upset. But particularly with my lawyer, I’m feeling very comfortable, and now that it’s all out in the open, I’m not finding it that daunting.’


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