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Corey William's story

‘Receiving money is like getting payment for services … it has a dirty feeling about it … The school, I would have liked an apology from, to say, “I’m so sorry for putting you in that circumstance”. That’s what I probably would have liked out of all this.’

Corey received a compensation payment for the sexual abuse he experienced as a student at a school run by the Marist Brothers in Canberra in the 1980s, but he found the legal process confusing and rushed.

His staunchly Catholic family moved to Canberra when Corey was in Year 4. They lived very near to the school, so it was the obvious choice for his parents. ‘Because I used to walk home [and] my parents were shift workers … there wasn’t someone waiting for me a lot of the time. So I’d hang around at school.’

Brother Fielding wasn’t Corey’s teacher, but he had a big train set in his classroom. This was very tempting for a small boy, and provided the perfect opportunity for the Brother to begin sexually abusing Corey. The abuse was ‘mainly touching, feeling … Coming up behind you’. The abuse continued for two years, until the Brother left the school.

‘It was affection … Unfortunately … as an adult, [you] open up the door to what happened as a child, so you now have to understand your child thoughts. … When you cut it back, they make you love them. And that’s what it was … I was getting … the attention that I needed … When he left … I missed the attention’.

Corey’s father was often busy working, so Corey was seeking something that was missing in his life.

Brother Melville taught in the secondary school, but Corey met him while he was in primary school. ‘Being around the school so much of an afternoon, he had a dog and I used to play with the dog.’ Once Brother Fielding left the school, Brother Melville began abusing Corey. ‘In hindsight, I see it as a tag team … I’ve now progressed up the ladder … I was being groomed. I now understand that.’

While having conversations with Corey, Brother Melville would continuously grope him. ‘And I thought that was kind of normal at the time … He wasn’t aggressive … There was only one time he was.’ When Corey walked in on Brother Melville molesting another boy, the Brother became physically abusive, and held his arm against Corey’s throat.

Corey was upset by this incident and was sitting outside crying, when another teacher, Jack Barton came up to comfort him. He said, ‘It’s all right. I’ll talk to your mum and dad. I’ll sort this out for you … Please don’t tell anyone’.

Corey told the Commissioner, ‘He basically … began to groom me into believing that my parents are now aware of what was happening and it was acceptable’. For years Corey hated his father because he thought his parents knew about the abuse and sanctioned it.

He believes that Barton frequently drugged him. ‘The nature of his abuse was everything … I was given drinks and I have memory loss. I once gave an example of waking up on an oval near our house in my uniform, and not having any idea of how I got there.’

Corey told the Commissioner, ‘There were times that I was aware of it. There was times … where he’d be very aggressive and it was … obviously, as you go through the change of life you realise that things aren’t what they should be and yeah, it became a little bit nasty then. Or nastier, I suppose … He was always very … dominating and very threatening to me’. Barton would tell Corey that he was being ‘a good Christian soldier’, while he was raping him.

The abuse continued until Corey’s family moved back to their home town. ‘I couldn’t tell you the relief I had because at that time I knew it wasn’t right.’ Before the family left, Barton came to visit, ‘letting me know that if anything came of it, that all my family would be harmed’.

After the family moved, ‘I needed to be in control of my environment … I would do anything to control that environment. Not in a dishonest … but in, I suppose, a manipulative way, to avoid any confrontation with anyone. So essentially, I just went into myself … There was a severe lack of trust’.

About seven years after Corey had left school, Barton walked into the shop where he worked. ‘I heard his voice … and I left the next day. It just destroyed me … even at that age, to be so affected by a person … So, yeah, I left … I lost control of my environment, so I had to get out of there.’

Corey has been diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. ‘I wouldn’t say … it’s a life sentence, because it’s not, but you do have things … your triggers, and smells, things that you get taken back to. What I’ve done is I’ve sided myself with a good psychologist, who’s given me tools and … I can move forward.’

Corey told the Commissioner, ‘To make sense of it … the institutions … at the time, provided the perfect sanctuary for these people … They would get into these institutions and be able to run riot and they’d be able to … hide under the cloak of God’.

To a devout Catholic, like Corey’s mother, ‘the priest, the doctor and the policeman were the people that … you trust. She trusted them. So when you’re in a school environment like this, you’re taught to respect and to do as your teacher says … They were very sneaky. They were very clever. They were very good’.

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