‘I loved the Church, I loved everything about it.’
Growing up, Barton described himself as a ‘religious freak’. His parents were determined to send him to an elite Catholic boys’ school in Melbourne, but were struggling financially. In the early 1960s, his dad got another job and Barton was enrolled for his first year of high school.
The school had a culture of violence, and Barton was regularly hit by his teachers. He said on several occasions he was hit just for scratching his head during morning assemblies or mass.
His passion for the Church, however, was not affected. He always volunteered to help and, through his enthusiasm, got to know most of the teachers and priests.
When he was 14, he was befriended by Father Kinglet, and they often spent time together at school. Kinglet showered Barton with praise and told him that he would make a great priest. Barton was also told that he could go on to become a saint, which made him feel even more special.
The friendship continued for several months. Everywhere Barton went, Kinglet was somehow around. In Grade 8, Barton’s year group went on a school camp with a few teachers and priests, and he was happy that Kinglet was one of them.
While they were on camp, Kinglet sexually abused Barton twice in the showers. Barton didn’t understand what was happening and just assumed that it was a part of their friendship. The abuse continued frequently when they returned to school.
On one occasion Kinglet brought another priest, Father Robinson, and both men abused Barton. He recalls them threatening him to never tell anyone about what had happened. Barton was terrified of getting into trouble, so he complied.
In his mid-teens, Barton’s attitude began to change. He stopped volunteering and became angry and rebellious towards the priests. Then, when Father Robinson tried to rape him, Barton attacked the man.
Unable to hold it in any longer, he disclosed the abuse to his father. ‘He said to me, “Do not say a word about this to anybody. Ever”. [My dad] then went to see the Rector and he was told, “Your boy is no good. Take him out of school”.’
Barton never completed his education. Throughout his teens he felt embarrassed and ashamed, and believes his father was ashamed of him, too. Their relationship ended when Barton left school.
As he got older, he struggled to contain his anger and would often lose control in front of others. He abused alcohol for several years and got in trouble with the law for assault.
‘Authority didn’t mean a thing to me. I’d argue all day long with them. I turned very sour, had a divorce. I had battles with my [ex-wife] and I was never an angry person.’
In the late 2000s, he told his psychologist about the sexual abuse. He then contacted the police and reported the priests. Kinglet was charged with child sexual assault, but the charges were later withdrawn. By that time Robinson had been dead for many years.
Before coming to the Royal Commission, Barton engaged with lawyers to seek compensation from the school. He was offered $100,000 but knocked it back. He explained that he wanted to know if there were more victims and would make a decision from there.