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Campbell's story

Campbell was born in country Victoria in the late 1950s. At the age of seven he had to undergo several serious operations on his lower abdomen. After recovering, the specialist told him to be very careful of his rear end and bowel for a couple of years. ‘As a little kid you remember these things,’ he said.

Campbell’s older brother attended a prestigious Catholic school in Melbourne, and often spoke of someone there he called ‘Bloody Robbo’. At the end of Grade 1 Campbell was taken by his parents to the same school for an interview with the headmaster. On the day his brother even warned him to ‘watch out for that Bloody Robbo’.

After speaking with his parents for a few minutes, the headmaster asked to talk to Campbell alone and took him into another room. He told the boy to sit on his knee, at which point Campbell realised the man had nothing on under his cassock. He positioned Campbell in such a way that his erect penis was between the boy’s buttocks.

Campbell was too young to understand what was going on but he knew something was wrong. He became agitated and tried to wriggle away but the headmaster wouldn’t let him. When asked if he’d like to attend the school Campbell remembered saying, ‘I don’t really know that I want to come here ‘cause I might meet that Bloody Robbo’, not realising the headmaster’s name was Father Roberts and he was talking to ‘Bloody Robbo’ himself.

This comment actually stopped the abuse. The headmaster took Campbell off his lap and gave him four cuts of the strap, even though his mother and father were just outside and Campbell wasn’t a pupil of the school. After the interview was over Campbell thought about telling his parents what had happened, but as a scared and confused child he didn’t know what to say.

Campbell went on to attend the school and enjoyed his time there. But he never liked going near the room where the abuse occurred. He said that ‘it always had me highly frightened, and I was always nervous of watching where I was’. And even though ‘Father Roberts never spoke to me or addressed me in any way or physically in any way came near me ever again … I’ve never forgotten it’.

As he got older, although memories of the incident would surface, Campbell decided it was better to say nothing and ‘just get on with it’. His private session with the Royal Commission was the first time he’d ever spoken about the abuse.

‘My motivation for that was – it’s like any matter – if nobody says something, nobody knows what’s happened.’

He once tried to speak to a senior member of the Catholic clergy about the issue of child sexual abuse in the Church, only to have the man walk out of the room while he was still talking.

And even though he was raised a Catholic, in a family with a long tradition of service to the faith, Campbell’s respect for the Church has been destroyed. ‘I now wonder, is the Catholic Church a paedophile club? That is how ruthless I’ve become.’

The impact of the abuse has stayed with Campbell his whole life. After having children, he became extremely vigilant about where they went and what they did. ‘I’ve always made bloody sure where my kids are.’ Whether it was going to school, playing sport or joining the scouts, Campbell was always on the alert. He’d make a point of personally meeting the people who were in contact with his children, and often invited groups of young people to his property to make certain they were socialising in a safe place. Even today, in a room full of adults, Campbell says, ‘I look out for others, elderly or otherwise. Everybody’.

One of Campbell’s most strongly-held beliefs is that, ‘the greatest gift you can give a child is an education. We must make sure that that environment is one of true nurturing and goodness’. His hope is that the Royal Commission will be able to make this a reality for all children.

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