When Darren was seven years old he began training as an altar boy at the presbytery of the Catholic primary school he attended in Melbourne. Father Hill was the priest who ran the training.
It was the late 1950s and Darren lived alone with his mother, who often worked in the afternoons. Darren told the Commissioner that Hill would check with him to make sure his mother was away working and then drive Darren home and sexually abuse him while they were alone together in the house. At other times Hill would abuse him in the presbytery.
One day Darren’s mother discovered blood stains on the bed and on Darren’s pants and took him to see a doctor. Darren said that the doctor was a ‘staunch Catholic’ who did not want to report the incident. So Darren’s mum sought out the only non-Catholic doctor on the premises and, with his encouragement, contacted police.
The policeman turned out to be Catholic as well. Darren told the Commissioner that ‘nothing was done there’ so he and his mother visited a second police station and filed a report. ‘And we never heard from them again.’
Shortly afterwards, Father Hill was removed from the school. As far as Darren knows no police action was taken against him at that time.
Darren decided to put the whole situation out of his mind. ‘I wanted to get on with my life and forget that it ever happened.’
He completed his schooling, joined the army for a while and then applied his technician skills to the civilian workforce. During this time he struggled with a number of health problems that were direct results of the abuse, including bleeding and incontinence.
When Darren was about 30 his mother was contacted by Broken Rites. With their encouragement she got in touch with police who then came to see Darren.
At first Darren was reluctant to take action. ‘I didn’t want to go to court. I didn’t want anyone to know. I just wanted to get on with my life.’ But eventually he came round to the idea and joined with two other men in a criminal case against Father Hill. Darren told the court that he wanted an apology and an acknowledgment for what had occurred, because adults would not believe the word of a seven-year-old boy against the word of a priest back in the 1950s.
The case turned out to be a disappointment for Darren. He told the Commissioner that because Hill pleaded guilty there was no opportunity for a proper hearing, and he feels that the sentence was just a ‘slap on the wrist’.
Father Hill has since been convicted of a number of offences committed against other boys.
Darren is now doing his best to get on with his life while struggling with a range of health problems. He is pleased to see the work being done to prevent child abuse and convict offenders, but he finds it hard to cope with the associated publicity.
‘Every minute you read something in the paper about what’s happening. And not only that, his name came up every time you picked up a paper … Every time I bring it up it just breaks me down.’