When Blake arrived at his new Catholic primary school in Sydney in the late 1970s, he was immediately targeted by the Grade 5 teacher, Brother Matthew.
‘He singled me out when I first got there and made me the class captain. And from there he used to take me out of class in the middle of class, probably about two to three times a week for probably about 10 months. He’d take me back to his room, and he’d take me to a room downstairs where – it was under the stairwell where they used to keep all the sporting facilities – that was where he played around with me.’
To keep Blake quiet, Brother Matthew told him that if he ever mentioned the sexual abuse to anyone he wouldn’t have any friends and no one would believe him. Brother Matthew also made threats of physical violence.
‘He’d flog the shit out of you with a cane if you didn’t do what he’d tell you. He was a pretty scary dude.’
As the abuse went on, Blake started to notice that Brother Matthew was also taking other boys out of class and into his bedroom. One time he brought one of Blake’s friends into the room and abused the two boys together.
Towards the end of the year the abuse stopped. In a written statement Blake told the Commission, ‘I can remember when Brother Matthew stopped doing these things to me because I had told him, "I've got a big mouth". By this I meant that I was going to tell people about what he had been doing to me and what he made me do to him’.
Several weeks later Brother Matthew left the school. From then on Blake tried to block out the memories of abuse and get on with his life. He managed pretty well for his first few years of high school and then things started to go wrong.
‘I took a lot of alcohol and drugs. I started smoking dope when I was 14. Started drinking at 16 … I was pretty aggro for a while too.’
Blake finished Year 11 but the school refused to accept him for Year 12 so he got an apprenticeship instead. He had a good boss and he worked hard but, after a few years, he decided he had to get out.
‘I had to leave Sydney or else I was going to do too much drugs. So I left and I’ve never looked back from that. Never touched any drugs – I smoke a bit of pot, but never any amphetamines or anything like that.’
Throughout his 20s Blake suffered from nightmares. When things got really bad he dealt with it by ‘knocking the top off a bottle of scotch’.
Then, in his late 20s, he saw on the news that Brother Matthew had been charged with a number of offences against children. The next day he spoke to police and made his first official report of the abuse.
Blake later learned that Brother Matthew pleaded guilty to three offences against him and was sentenced to 18 years in jail. Blake told the Commissioner he’s not happy that the man was only charged with the three offences and he would have liked to see him punished for more.
Blake also said he wants to see action taken against the staff who were working alongside Brother Matthew and the authorities who moved him from school to school.
‘What about the impact on the people that did know and kept throwing him around? Shouldn’t they be just as guilty as him?’