Cooper's story

‘I remember the first time he asked about my family. He asked about my father and I told him. I burst into tears, which meant it was easier access for a kid without a dad.’

Cooper’s father died in the early 1960s, leaving his mother as the sole parent of a large family. When Father Noel Taylor arrived in the parish a few years later, she’d often invite him to the family home for dinner.

One day when Cooper was 11, he was riding his bike near the church when Taylor asked him to help wash a car. After they’d finished, the priest took him into the presbytery and gave him food and drink. Within a short period of time, Taylor started sexually abusing Cooper twice a week. The priest would perform oral sex and masturbate the boy, under the guise of ‘wrestling’ and ‘play’.

Other priests saw Cooper going into Taylor’s room, but said nothing. Cooper disclosed the abuse to one priest in confession and still nothing was done. The abuse continued for nearly eight years and was stopped by Cooper after he saw a naked 15-year-old boy in Taylor’s room and realised he wasn’t ‘the only one’.

‘He made me dependent, if that makes sense. He wasn’t abusive, no. Getting lollies or whatever sort of made him more, a pleasant person, I suppose.’

In later life, Cooper worked in trades and education. He married and had children, and at one stage attempted to put distance between himself and the abuse by moving the family interstate.

In the early 80s he disclosed the abuse to his wife, but she cautioned him not to tell anyone else. When he later told his children, his eldest son reacted strongly. ‘Dad’s supposed to be strong, fearless and above any kind of drama’, Cooper said. ‘He suffered … He was not in a good space. He came through it in the end.’

In the early 90s, Cooper approached a legal firm for advice about taking action against Taylor and the Catholic Church. He was reluctant to go to Victoria Police because he believed they were working with the Church to cover up abuse.

At about this time, Taylor went to work overseas. When Cooper eventually did make a statement to police, he was told that the priest could not be extradited back to Australia.

In the late 90s Cooper received $30,000 compensation from the Church, an amount he described as ‘a pittance, a slap in the face’.

‘It was very traumatic. I thought it was very unfair; it was all one-sided. They had all the power, they had all the legal knowledge. Everything they had was in their favour and we were, or I was, just very much offered crumbs and that sort of stuff, and very much had to submit myself completely to them so I could get something, which is not empowering and it’s the last thing I needed – to go begging to the Church.’

Cooper told the Commissioner that the abuse has had a profound effect on his life. ‘Having trust with people; I didn’t trust the police, I didn’t trust the Church. Who’s straight in this world, do you know what I mean? Who’s honest? I grew up with that sort of chip on my shoulder and I was a very negative person for a long time.

‘I used to drink quite a bit as well even after I was married. Never did drugs or anything like that, but very unhappy, very disillusioned with life. Contemplated suicide in my late teens, those sorts of things as well. Never did anything, but contemplated it. Sleepless nights, years and years of nightmares.

‘Being a family thing it’s affected me. Often when there’s a wedding or baptism or communion or whatever [in] the Catholic Church – I don’t go to them now, but I used to go to them and my stomach used to churn all the time …

‘I just think the way victims have been treated is appalling. I can’t think of any other words. These guys were protected all along the way and the little guy is not.’

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