‘I was a miserable, alcoholic, angry, violent bastard, and I treated everyone around me like shit for a long time. And I think this business in Sydney had a lot to do with that.’
Taken from his mother at age two or three, Arnold spent time in orphanages before he and his little brother were fostered by the Hatfield family in Sydney in the mid-1960s.
Arnold described his time with the Hatfields as ‘unpleasant and dreadful’. Yet, as a naturally bright boy, he managed to rise above his difficult home life to excel at school and sport. Now he holds tightly to the memory of the ribbons and trophies he won – they remind him of the talented, intelligent boy he was, and the man he could have been if not for the abuse.
It started when he was 12, just after the Hatfields sent him to a high school run by the Marist Brothers. Arnold believes he stayed at the school for a year or so. It may have been longer. He’s not sure.
‘My mind seems to have had a facility throughout the years, if it skated anywhere near anything to do with those times, to skate over it and completely dismiss it and avoid it totally.’
There are only a few things that Arnold remembers from that time, but he remembers them clearly. There was the night his teacher, Mr Wallace, visited the family home to talk with his foster parents.
‘He had this sense that I’d had this horrible childhood or vulnerable childhood or whatever you want to call it, and he was saying that I should be given some culture, and offering to take me on excursions or trips on the weekend into the city to see art or whatever.’
Over the next few months, Wallace took Arnold on several trips to Sydney and sexually abused him. Arnold’s recollection of these incidents is fragmented but vivid.
‘He seemed to have huge hands and a big fat gold ring, and they’re the things that are really fixed in my memory – his face and his hands and a stool. Sort of a stool in a room … and light coming into this room through great, huge, tall windows.’
Arnold didn’t understand what Wallace was doing to him. ‘I had no idea why this man wanted me with my clothes off and wanted to pinch me, and when I got an erection I had no idea what the hell was going on. I had no idea.’
There were at least three such sessions. They ended after a year or so because Arnold’s family moved to another city. By this stage he was a very different boy from the naive 12-year-old who loved sport and excelled in his studies.
‘I went to, of course, a Catholic school which was run by Marist priests. Fairly early on one of them touched me, and I thought wanted to do what Mr Wallace had done to me. And I bashed the shit out of him … I just beat everyone up. I just turned feral. As soon as I could get my hands on alcohol I just drank as much alcohol as I could … As soon as I could get hold of drugs, they were good too.’
Years passed in a blur. Eventually, with the help of a ‘good woman’, Arnold took his first small steps towards a better life.
‘It didn’t happen overnight. Child came along and I thought, “Shit, precious cargo. Better do something about it”. I was aware by then that I was an angry, horrible, drug-addled mongrel … I did start thinking explicitly about where I needed to change myself and improve things and then actually start the hard process of doing that. And I’m quietly proud that I have, and I know my wife is, too.’
Arnold has never told his wife or children about the abuse. Before coming to the Royal Commission he had never told anyone. He’s glad that he finally did, especially after a Commission officer told him that other complaints had been made about Wallace.
‘It’s almost a relief to hear that you guys had heard of this guy – that he was real and actually existed and it wasn’t just a complete figment of my imagination.’