In the early 1970s, with his parents living overseas, Arch became a boarder at a Marist Brothers high school in Queensland.
For ‘a tiny little bloke’, the school was a frightening place. ‘The Brothers, because we were living there, they know everything about you … And they I think very quickly figure out your strengths and your weaknesses. And those that want to, can hammer that.’
From the age of 12, Arch was sexually abused by three different Brothers: Keith Peller, Noel Egmont and Roland Yarding.
‘A lot of the terminology we use now with “paedophilia”, “homosexuality” – we had no idea of those terms. No idea of that language at all … We spoke of the “scary” Brothers.’
‘Lots of touching, arms on shoulders and the like. But then there were ones that you kind of had a feeling, without knowing too much, that they were taking it a fraction further – which Brother Keith Peller did.
‘He sort of targeted me at least twice and, yeah, basically got me into bed, it was as simple as that … I’d just be half asleep and I can remember, you know, he’d undress me but I don’t know what else he did.
'The only thing I do remember is what we now call spooning. He’d sort of hold me in bed … but I don’t know whether he was fondling me or whether there was oral sex. I don’t know. I don’t remember.
‘But just in the back of mind I’m sure other things happened that I wasn’t aware of.’
Noel Egmont was another one who was always touching and hugging the boys. Arch recalled the Brother coming up behind him when no one else was around and grabbing him.
‘As a little kid you think, well, that’s playful. But as an adult you now know, that wasn’t normal behaviour. But I got out of his clutches, I sort of managed to move away from him.’
A couple of years after the abuse by Peller, Brother Yarding began taking a special interest in Arch.
‘I look back now and I genuinely believe he fell in love with me. It was almost like he was besotted with me … Yarding, I think, affected me the most because I was that little bit older and it was just constant. He was working really hard, really, really hard to get me into bed.’
Arch described Yarding as ‘almost like a demigod in the world of Catholic education’.
‘And, of course, who’s going to believe you? No one. Absolutely no one.’
After leaving school, Arch said he ‘buried’ the memories of the abuse. He became a husband and father, and led what he called ‘a very low-key life’. But, after watching the public hearing into the Marist Brothers in the mid 2010s, he decided to come forward.
Arch also went online and found the Broken Rites website. ‘When I first read that it was like, “Holy hell, there are so many”. I just couldn’t believe it. I just thought I was one of the few, and there was reams of them ... all boys like me, 20, 30, 40 years later coming out.’
He then contacted the Marist Brothers and told his story in detail to an investigator. His allegations were subsequently labelled ‘not substantiated’ and Arch was told that if he wanted to take it further, he’d have to go to the police.
‘When I had my meeting with the investigator, they actually got me to sign a statement that I wouldn’t take this to the police. So I said, “Hey, you people have just in effect coerced me to sign a statement that I’m not going to go to the police and now you’re saying I’m on my own, off to the police”.’
A few months later the order contacted Arch and asked him a lot of questions about Noel Egmont. Since then, he has heard nothing more.
‘No one’s even talking about their infamous Towards Healing program, which I expected someone to be ringing me about, and trotting me off to church or confession or whatever as if, you know, it’s all my fault.
'But no one’s mentioning that at all now. No one’s mentioning anything … They’re protecting their own brand. I mean, they all are.’
Arch has never told his family about the sexual abuse. ‘I just can’t’, he said simply. And, after seeing Noel Egmont acquitted a number of times in the early 2000s, he decided that he wouldn’t take legal action. A decision, he said, that Broken Rites was strongly against.
(When Arch came to the Royal Commission, Egmont was about to be sentenced for child sex offences committed at the next Catholic school he worked at, in Sydney.)
He’s not interested in compensation, either. ‘All of us, you know, all the boys at Knox and Joey’s Hunters Hill and that, our parents paid a lot of money to go to these places. And they’ve been bandying around terms of compensation and all the rest of it, but no one’s talking about reimbursing these poor parents, who quite often had skimped and saved to send their children to these so-called marvellous private educational institutions. No one ever talks about that.’
Arch has also come to realise that the sexual abuse was treated as nothing more than part of the school’s culture.
‘It was only at a reunion a few years ago where I met another Brother who was one of the good ones. And when I went up and introduced myself, he didn’t remember me immediately, I was sort of one of the background boys. And then he said, “Ah, you were Brother Roland’s boy”. It was like, “Hang on. Hang on”. And he wasn’t talking about I was in a sporting team or I was in his class or anything else like that … and I thought, “They all know”.’