Darell's story

Most of Darell’s life has revolved around schools. His parents were teachers and he became a successful teacher himself. Because of his profession and his childhood experiences, he is now very alert to behaviour that is inappropriate. But it wasn’t always the case.

His parents’ jobs meant Darell, and his brother and sister, moved frequently. In the late 1960s the family moved to a New South Wales country town. Darell did well at school and loved his sport, getting involved in the junior rugby league club and cricket club. He’s not sure if he first met Father Frank through those clubs or because he was the scripture teacher at school.

Father Frank suggested Darell stay over at the rectory after sport because he lived out of town. His parents trusted Father Frank because of his standing within the Anglican Church.

‘I was the perfect victim’, said Darell. ‘So Mum and Dad said yes, as most parents would with someone from that background who used his position beautifully.’

Over a period of six to nine months, Father Frank abused Darell between six and 12 times when he stayed at the rectory. There was never anyone else around. ‘He set it up pretty well.’

Darell said he was naive and this made him an easy target. ‘In that period there was never any thought about stranger danger, paedophilia or inappropriateness from adults’, he said. ‘In fact I questioned whether I was wrong. I couldn’t tell anyone because they were going to either say I was silly or that it was okay. I was an 11-year-old naive country kid.’

Darell has no doubt that the perpetrator was a serial predator. He recalls one occasion when an older boy came into the house and saw something going on but did not seem at all shocked. There was also another boy, whom Darell approached as an adult, who remembered Father Frank behaving inappropriately towards him in a swimming pool.

One of Darell’s happiest memories was when he was due to stay at the rectory but got hit by a cricket ball and had to go home after seeing the doctor.

‘I was extremely happy that I didn’t have to go through a very painful experience – physical abuse and things I knew weren’t right but I didn’t know how to fix it.’

In the early 1970s the family moved away but there was one further occasion of abuse when Father Frank came to see them and asked Darell’s parents if he could stay with him. Darell didn’t know how to say no. ‘I was still only 12.’

Darell never told his parents of the abuse and his father has now passed away. He thought at the time that perhaps he had done something wrong and didn’t want to get into trouble.

‘I’ve got pretty clear images, memories of what was said, key words which are not nice. Things like “you’ll enjoy this” … When an adult says that you think maybe you’re supposed to because you don’t know any different. Like anyone who’s good at their job, if this person is being “good” as a paedophile then they know exactly … the right words to say to come across to children. And make it appear like it’s okay.’

Darell now thinks that if he’d had a safe place to report he may have done so.

When he was in his early 20s Darell met his wife, from whom he is now divorced, and told her of the abuse. For the most part he put the abuse to the back of his mind and concentrated on his career, but he was very careful about who his children went to stay with. He also turned away from the Church, only attending for weddings or funerals.

‘I struggled with the hypocrisy of it’, said Darell. ‘Someone who went under the guise of being someone that everyone should look up to, had confidence in, and then basically to commit the most heinous of all things against children.’

Over time, memories of the abuse have troubled him more and he struggles when people tell what he thinks are inappropriate jokes. He told his brother about the abuse 10 years ago, and a friend six years ago. Three years ago he accessed some counselling and he’s still deciding whether to go to the police.

Darell said things have changed and there are better procedures in place now to protect children, as well as a greater awareness among children about what is appropriate. But things are not perfect.

‘You can put all the procedures and protocols in place, but if someone has this evil mind that they still want to commit a crime against a child then they will do anything they can to do it ... There’ll always be people out there who are challenged.’

Darell said he felt some relief after telling his story to the Royal Commission. He hoped his information might be useful if there were others who had come forward about Father Frank or events in the town at that time. He told the Commissioner, ‘I appreciate having the opportunity to come in and speak to an important group that hopefully, through the findings, will make it so much safer for kids.’

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