Bruno attended a Christian Brothers primary school in Queensland in the early 1970s. When he was about 11 years old he was targeted by his teacher, Brother Vincent.
‘I had a few problems anyway’, Bruno told the Commissioner. ‘I was dyslexic, so I was a bit slower at school. I wasn’t the star of the school or anything. I had a few issues. And I think he saw I was a bit weak.’
Brother Vincent took Bruno into the small office attached to the classroom and abused him there on about six occasions.
Feelings of shame and fear kept Bruno from speaking out. ‘I believed that people would point at me: “look at that dirty kid, look at what he did”.’
Eventually the abuse came to an end, and a short while later Brother Vincent abruptly left the school. ‘He just left because something had come out and I don’t know what … He was touted to be the next principal of the school and then he had gone. He just disappeared.’
After the abuse, Bruno struggled through high school, graduated in year 10 and went straight into the workforce. By then the abuse had ‘impacted hugely’ on his life.
‘I’ve had over 155 jobs, I’ve moved hundreds of times, and I mean even states. I moved three states in one year. Relationships have never been successful for me.’
For the next few decades he experienced depression, anger and alcoholism and was in denial about the abuse.
‘I’d buried it. And in my heart I thought, “I’ve dealt with this”, and I hadn’t. I hadn’t dealt with it … Fear. Shame. I just kept pushing ahead, ignoring – I just kept saying “nup”, you know. I had a lot of breakdown in relationships, and people saying, “What’s wrong with you?” I did attempt suicide a couple of times. And of course because no one knew, I couldn’t tell. People just thought I was, I don’t know, mad.’
Then one day, more than 30 years after the abuse, Bruno received a letter from a solicitor.
‘I sat down. I was in shock, because this has brought it all out and I’m like, “Oh my God”. And it was a letter from a lawyer saying, “This guy has made accusations against Brother Vincent, do you know anything?” And of course being 11 years of age I truly in my heart believed I was the only one being abused. I never thought anyone else was going through this. So I was just gob smacked.’
Bruno discovered that several other men had also been abused by Brother Vincent when they were boys, and he joined with them in a claim against the Catholic Church. As part of the process, Bruno was required to attend a session with the Church’s psychiatrist.
‘I walked in and she looked at me and virtually from the time I sat down called me a liar … It was just unbelievable, and I left there so distraught and angry. I contacted the solicitors, and I think the Catholic insurance company either reined her in or got another one because I was the fourth complaint. She made you feel you were the culprit, you were the one that – that you’re lying, it’s just rubbish and you created it anyway. It was just really horrendous.’
After almost two years of information-gathering, a mediation session was finally arranged. Four weeks later, Bruno received $150,000, minus $60,000 in legal fees. He was grateful for the payment but felt that the behaviour of the Church representatives during the mediation was callous and insincere.
‘“Yeah, we ruined your life, bugger off”. That’s how it felt to me. And the way they did it, the way they fought … I felt like it was another kick in the guts. After all these years, after 40 years you come out here and drag me out here and kick me in the guts again? After you did what you did, knowingly? You drag me in here and go, “We’ll give you 10 grand, oh we’ll make it 50”. It was just insulting. Degrading and insulting and it made me very, very angry at their attitude and very upset and I couldn’t wait to get out of there.’
Bruno is still angry at the Church and the school, regarding them as even more despicable than his abuser.
‘It’s really weird. As much as I despise him, he’s a sick man. We don’t know why he’s sick, whether it’s something wired or what happened, but I’m more disappointed and angry that the school willingly and quite comfortably shoved him in a room with a bunch of boys, saying, “Here you go”. And I don’t understand that. If you knew what he was like, get him to do something else. Don’t do that. I mean, I’m one of the lucky ones. There’s others who have killed themselves, others who are living in the park.’