After a violent domestic argument landed both his mother and stepfather in hospital, Antony was sent to a government-run children’s home in the mid-1960s, at the age of five. He stayed two years before being placed in a Catholic orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy, where sexual abuse by one of the nuns started almost immediately.
‘It started first when the nun would come up to me and just make sure I’m tucked in, she’d pull her hand down, she’d pull my hand between her legs; she wasn’t wearing any underpants, and she’d tell me to keep my arm like that and she’d be bobbing up and down while I’m in bed. Then it got more brazen, more intimate. I don’t know how to explain it but being a kid I really wasn’t aware of what was going on.’
For the three years Antony was in the orphanage he was sexually abused by the nun several times per week. He was also sexually abused by two 17-year-old girls resident in the orphanage.
Antony told his mother on one of her visits what the nun had been doing. Shocked, she told Antony’s stepfather who went straight to the orphanage.
‘I could hear him down the other end of the hallway saying to the nun, “Why are you touching my son? Why don’t you touch me? I’m a grown man”, and this and that. Well, I thought Mum and Dad were going to take me, I really thought they were going to take me out of the home and take me to the police, and nope, I was left there.’
After his disclosure, Antony was segregated, fed meals of leftovers and scraps and caned ‘for telling lies’. Two weeks after his disclosure, he was moved to a Christian Brothers boys’ home.
When Brother Beattie met Antony’s mother, he told her he’d look out for her son. ‘He made sure none of the boys would pick on me or anything like that’, Antony said. ‘And then I think it was about six months later he got me to come in his room, he’d make me, like, sit on his lap, “Come and sit on my lap. Have this. Have a drink”. He was wearing – there was no underpants, no nothing, just like a robe, like a dressing gown type and yeah, he’d masturbate between my legs. Sometimes he’d make me give him oral sex. And then it got to a stage where I was getting called a teacher’s pet or bum buddy by all the other boys.’
Antony told the Commissioner that on one occasion he sought Brother Beattie’s help because another Christian Brother had taken to regularly strapping him and three other boys in the dorm at night. Beattie stopped the physical abuse but Antony said thereafter he felt he ‘owed’ Beattie something, and the sexual abuse escalated. ‘He used me as a sex toy but he also protected me and the four boys.’
Antony was always asking his mother when she was going to take him home. When he was 12 or 13, ‘the day came, finally’. Beattie drove Antony and his now single mother to their flat and left them there, but within a month he’d returned. ‘Looking back now he was after my mum. … So it still happened after I got out of the home.’
Antony said he left the boys’ home with a stutter, no education and a habit of biting his nails. He was also addicted to alcohol and marijuana which had been freely supplied by the Christian Brothers.
‘I smoke marijuana because I was handed it in [the home]. I was handed these smokes. And I wouldn’t remember the next morning how I got to bed. I’d be feeling sore around my genitals, around my backside, between my legs.’ Antony said boys would often stay in the Brothers’ rooms. ‘A lot of the times boys wouldn’t come back through the night. They’d be probably five o’clock in the morning they’d turn up, you know, depending on which boy was selected. I noticed the Brothers were very selective to which boys.’
In following years, Antony continued to struggle with his education. He did slightly better at trade school, but a distrust of anyone in authority thwarted his hopes of getting an apprenticeship. He became involved in petty crime and narrowly avoided going to adult prison. The longest period he’d ever held a job was two years.
A couple of years ago Antony made application for redress through Towards Healing. Catholic Church staff were prepared to consider his account of abuse by the Christian Brothers, but not by the Sister of Mercy. They told him he wouldn’t get anywhere, because no one had ever been successful taking a nun to court.
He also reported the sexual abuse to Victoria Police who recorded his statement, but didn’t investigate any of the matters further.
Antony received an ex-gratia payment of $22,000 from the Government of Victoria, and later, $40,000 from the Catholic Church, of which $3,000 was paid to his solicitor.
In a second mediation several years later, Antony received $22,000 from the Christian Brothers. The amount included $9,000 in solicitors’ fees. He was upset that the mediator at the second hearing was the same person who’d vigorously pursued the interests of the Christian Brothers in Antony’s first action.
He remained disappointed that he’d never received an apology from the Catholic Church nor recognition of the nun’s abuse.
‘I really want you to know that it wasn’t just the priests, it was the nuns too. And all I hear on TV is about the priests, but it was the nuns as well. And I know I can’t remember the name of the nuns, of the nun’s name. I wish I could. I don’t want to implicate the wrong nun.’
He said he lived quietly now with his partner in the country, and did his best to avoid crowds or situations where he’d feel trapped.
‘We have a nice happy life at the moment. No dramas with any people. I don’t have to worry about people in suburbia. I get my peace and quiet. If the only thing that is going to bother me are the cockatoos and the sheep, I’ve got nothing to worry about really …
‘I do have a nice life at the moment. I can’t dispute that. But I feel as if the clergy owes me a lot more, because of what has happened through the homes and what they’ve kept, a lot of things, like they’ve kept my clothes, my money. It hasn’t come out - that never come out.’