‘Somehow I always seemed to get the wrong end of the stick when I was in an institution.’
In the early 1950s when Brody was young, he and his family lived on a large property in Western Australia his grandfather had ‘permission to occupy’. He enjoyed living closely with several family members but when he was six years old, he and his siblings were taken by the government and placed in a Catholic mission, which was a fair distance away from his family.
Brody described the mission as lonely and heartbreaking. He was separated from his sister and prevented from seeing her. Despite having a visiting day on Sundays, Brody’s parents rarely came. Shortly after their children were taken, Brody’s parents split up and began drinking heavily.
Life at the mission was hard. The living conditions were horrible and Brody was subjected to regular physical abuse by the priests. The nuns taught lessons during the day, but they were short classes. The mission was self-sufficient and the children were forced to grow crops and take care of the animals. Brody was responsible for the cows on the property and was known as the dairy boy.
In the mid-1950s when Brody was seven, he was sexually abused by two older boys of the mission. He was woken by them in the night and held down while one of the boys tried to penetrate him. He managed to fight the boys off him but he was badly injured.
Brody was confused and upset about what happened. He went to one of the priests who supervised the dormitories and reported the abuse.
‘I got a flogging of a dog ... He beat me with an electric cable. It put me in bed for a week.’
Brody’s mother came to visit him at the mission shortly after he was beaten by the priest. He said that she tried to hug him but he refused to be touched because of the big welts on his back. He then told her what happened with the priest and she looked at his injuries. She was furious and then hit the priest responsible several times with a large stick. After her visit, Brody didn’t see his mother again for several years.
After that, Brody wasn’t sexually abused again but he was physically abused several times by the priests. He recalls the priests referring to the children as ‘swine dogs’ and never by name. Father Ewan was particularly cruel to him and he still has scars from the beatings he endured.
When he was 13, Brody was sent to a Christian Brothers boys’ school. He was a day student there and stayed at a youth hostel close by. He was treated the same by the Brothers as he had been by the priests at the mission. He was regularly beaten by Brother William, who was notorious for using his leather belt.
Brody attended the boys’ school for two years and was in foster care during the school holidays. The family that cared for him was supportive and kind, which helped him with his anger issues, but he dropped out of school because he didn’t want to be around the Christian Brothers or the mission priests. He did an apprenticeship when he was 16 years old and moved to a different town but kept in contact with his foster family for several decades.
During his teens and adulthood, Brody struggled with trusting people, especially those in authority. He became a violent person but his foster mother helped calm him down. He went through a period of drinking heavily, which affected his relationships, but in his mid-20s, he decided to change his habits and settle down.
By the time he was 30, Brody had his own house, a job and several children with his partner. He described himself as a harsh parent who didn’t know how to love. He never let people stay over at his home and never told his partner or children the details of his abuse, which put a strain on his relationships with his family. After being with his partner for over two decades the relationship broke down, which upset Brody deeply.
‘There was always something missing but I couldn’t place my finger on it. Now I know what it was; I was taken away and grew up with no love.’
It took Brody nearly 50 years to reconnect with his biological family. He said it was a ‘huge culture shock’ and it was tough because he didn’t know them, but he instantly clicked with his mother and made many trips to see her up until her death.
It wasn’t until recent years that Brody disclosed the details of his abuse. He said his family knew, but he didn’t officially speak of it. He received $47,000 from the Western Australian redress scheme, which was ‘dirty money’ he didn’t want. He also received $3,000 from the Catholic Church and shared all the money with his children.
Brody approached the Catholic Church recently to have a discussion with a priest. He wanted an apology for the abuse he had endured and was shocked to hear that it wouldn’t be done. Brody was told the priest wouldn’t apologise because he was not personally responsible for the abuse. He is still waiting for an apology.