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Bill Peter's story

Home was a pretty tough place, Bill told the Commissioner. His mum kept her many kids in order with frequent blows from the jug cord or a wooden spoon. ‘Every time we went shopping she’d buy another dozen wood spoons – they used to get broken over us’, Bill recalled.

The family lived in a small town in outback New South Wales. The Catholic community there, which included Bill’s family, was too small to support a parish priest, so priests from other districts would visit them throughout the year. One of those priests was Father Kevin Trottley, who visited annually for three or four years, from the late 1960s.

‘He’d turn up at Christmas, for the six-week break’, Bill said.

Trottley would arrive in a van with a group of boys who he took on camping trips, between his duties at the church. He was well liked in the community, and became good friends with Bill’s parents.

‘He used to come and have tea with Mum and Dad.’

Socialising with Bill’s parents was also an opportunity for Trottley to sexually assault Bill. This happened first of all when Bill was about five, and continued for some years.

‘I remember saying to Dad once that he touched me and me dad kicked me up the arse and I couldn’t sit down for a week. So I thought “Nuh. I’m not going to say that again”.’ His father didn’t believe him: ‘He said [Trottley] wouldn’t do that’.

Bill didn’t bother to tell anyone else, he just did his best to keep out of Trottley’s way. ‘Soon as he was around I’d get on me bike and go, so I didn’t have to be with him.’ At least a couple of times, though, he was sent off camping with Trottley and the other boys, and Trottley abused him again.

‘I remember the first time when he started, and one of the boys came along and he stopped straight away.’ The second time, Bill said, ‘no one came along’.

As a teenager, Bill went off the rails. ‘I used to drink a lot, and take every drug you could think of. At 18, I never expected to get to my 21st. I never celebrated any of me birthdays – didn’t care. I’m shocked that I’m still alive now, the things I’ve done.’

For many years he led an itinerant life. ‘I was just going from place to place all the time; I’d move around. I’d get bored, and I’d think “Oh well”. I’d just get in me car, grab some clothes and go. And people’d never hear from me again. I’d just go to another town and go to a pub … think “Oh well, I’ll stay here for a while.” Get on the turps … just travelling round, moving around all the time, going different places, working the stations and stuff …

‘Didn’t matter what I did. I thought, “Oh well, doesn’t matter if I die. That’s it.” So, I used to run amok too much. Do crazy things.’

Things changed one day when ‘out of the blue’ he got a phone call from a small business in a regional New South Wales town, asking if he’d like a job. Someone had given the boss his name.

‘I still don’t know to this day who got me the job, but I thank them because at the time I was thinking “That’s it. I’m givin’ up”.’

Bill worked at the business for the next five years. In that time he got together with his wife Alice, with whom he now has a family.

‘I liked the job, it was good. I was having fun, people there were nice – I ended up getting on good with them. Gave up drinking and smoking, don’t know why, but I did. Met Alice, that was it …

‘It’s just like, turned the page, and it’s somebody else.’

Bill and Alice and their kids eventually moved interstate. One day some years later Bill was watching TV and he saw a news item about Trottley, who’d been convicted of numerous sex offences against children, in multiple jurisdictions. ‘I thought, “Oh well that’s good, so he was in jail, so that’s that”. Then all of a sudden it was just constantly on the thing, it just brought up too much, every time you turned the TV on, that’s what it was. It just got to me and I thought, “I’ve got to do something about this”.’

Bill disclosed the abuse to his sister, who encouraged him to report to police. But when he did, he was deterred by the ‘personal questions’ he was asked. ‘The first thing I thought was, “You just want to get off on it”.’ He found it just as difficult to open up to a counsellor, sometime later. ‘He was asking me real details, and I was like nah, nah … So I thought nah, I can’t.’

He has since made contact with a sexual assault support service, which put him in touch with the Royal Commission. He has also met with a legal aid team to explore his options. But these are limited by how difficult it is for him to talk about the abuse.

‘If it gets too hard I just clamp up … The easiest way of coping is to forget about it. After this session it’ll take a couple of days to get over it … I’ve always just closed it up. Not done anything about it.’

Bill wonders if contacting some of Trottley’s other victims might help. ‘I think that might.’

Trottley has continued to receive media attention, with new charges and convictions extending his jail sentence for many years. ‘I’m glad I’m with Alice at the moment because if I was single, I’d make sure I found out what jail he was in and get myself put in there. I’ll always just want to … let him know, yes. That he screwed my life’, said Bill.

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