Dane Allan's story

Dane grew up in northern Sydney and was part of a loving family attending the local Anglican church. After he and his brothers joined the local Church of England Boys’ Society (CEBS) youth group led by church employee, John Hill, they started going on outings and overnight camps.

During Dane’s first camp in the late 1980s, he was sexually abused by Hill who, in allocating cabins, elected to share one with Dane. In the evening, Hill put on the television and a ‘hard-core pornography’ video which boys were trapped into watching with him.

‘About eight of us were sitting there with him and we watched this material’, Dane said. ‘He came and sat next to me and started touching me. There were boys right next to me so I had no idea of really what to do. I was absolutely terrified, and it really sort of went from there.’

Dane was aged 13 at the time of the abuse and during the camp Hill ‘went further’ and touched his penis and put it in his mouth. At another camp the following year, Hill had rigged up an outdoor shower and made the boys wash themselves and stand around afterwards while he watched.

After the first assault, Hill had told Dane that he wasn’t to tell anyone about what had happened.

‘[He] said you need to keep this to us, because everyone will think you’re gay and you don’t want that and your little brothers are here and they’re just over there and you don’t want any of that. I got up and went to my room and it had a Gideon bible in the drawer and I looked up homosexuality – which I’m not gay, but looked it up - and I felt absolutely sinful and I was just beside myself.’

Although Dane did his best to avoid Hill the abuse happened on several occasions on three different camps. When once Dane tried to speak with his parents and a family friend about Hill’s behaviour, he was left ‘feeling as if they didn’t believe me’.

He was also concerned that his brothers were at risk.

‘One of the things I found particularly difficult is that my little brothers were there and he on a number of occasions would refer to them and it made me very worried. This was something in my mind, not something he specifically said, but I was very worried – the way he spoke about them, I have a feeling he was saying to me, “If it’s not you mate, it’s them”, and they were very little and I love them dearly and I was quite protective of them.’

After Dane and his brothers left CEBS Dane heard rumours that Hill had been charged by NSW Police in relation to sexual offences against children. He didn’t know details but it gave him some peace of mind to think that action had been taken against Hill.

Dane went to university and enjoyed early success in his career. However, in his late twenties he ‘went off the rails’ and was drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. At different times too, he felt confused about his sexuality.

‘On the last occasion I saw him and it was just the two of us and … he said to me, “You just need to embrace the fact that you’re gay”. And that’s what he said to me. And that, I just thought in an odd sort of way was easier for me to accept what had happened if I was, because that of course was normal sexual activity if I was homosexual. So for a number of years I thought, well maybe that’s what I am. I didn’t act on that but that’s sort of how I felt.’

While he was at university, Dane went to see a number of psychologists and psychiatrists. He felt ‘all over the place’ and ‘guilty and conflicted’ about the abuse, and he believed the realisation that he wasn’t gay was one step in working towards the truth about the abuse.

In subsequent years he married and had children and when he told his wife about the abuse she’d been ‘tremendously supportive’.

Suggestions that his children participate in community activities and camps led Dane to make enquiries about Hill’s whereabouts. He found Hill was working in an area that potentially brought him into contact with children and in 2014, he rang NSW Police and asked if they could tell him whether Hill was ‘known’.

They weren’t able to do so but at the time of speaking to the Royal Commission in 2015, Dane was considering making a formal report to police about Hill’s abuse.

‘If I knew there was a record – he had a record of sorts – then it wouldn’t worry me, but if there’s nothing out there then I think have to [report] frankly.’

Dane said he felt like he was in a ‘pretty good place’.

‘But it never goes away and it rears its head, not every day but fairly regularly, so whenever I see another child or another story ... that sets me back and I start thinking about it again and I go through it all again in my head. So I think I’m marching on and getting on with life and keeping busy, but it never goes away and it’s always there and it’s like a dark secret.’

‘[There’s] the absolutely dire impact it had on me, at times. One thing I feel, and from my own personal story is that I like to think I’ve come out at the other end okay, and one of the things that stopped me talking to people is I didn’t know anyone who hadn’t fallen in a heap when this sort of thing happened. And I like to think that I might have made it out all right at the other end.’

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