‘We grew up out on the farm … went to [a state school] and I was bullied, and victim of aggravated assaults by school teachers, but it was all physical abuse. [In the early 1970s] I was hauled off a school bus … The bus driver was a teacher at [our] school …’
Declan and some other students were skylarking on the school bus when the driver stopped and ordered the culprits to get off.
‘One of the other students was belted across the A-cheeks with a full golf-swing of a broom handle, and then I … copped it across my lower back. It blackened my lower back from one side to the other. I was only 12 years old. Damn near broke my back.’
A friend of Declan’s family suggested that they send him to a boarding school run by the Methodist Church in South Australia. Declan wasn’t happy there. ‘The first year I wanted out of there and my parents said, “No …” because they’d invested too much money in me. And then the next year I ran away from school one night …’
Declan told the Commissioner that the head housemaster ‘had a dislike of me as soon as I set foot on the grounds there … I believe he instructed students to punish me, and four of them held me down on the bed … and the fifth one removed my shorts, [and] undergarments’.
The boy proceeded to shave Declan’s pubic hair, ‘and he was grabbing onto my dick, carrying on because I was a late developer, and in the meantime, the dorm walls … didn’t go up to the ceiling and there were students all hanging around off the walls, watching. Totally ruined my position there at [the school] and I had to leave’.
By the next day everyone in the school knew about the assault and Declan felt humiliated. ‘I’d rate it as a bastardisation I think, because it was an attack on my genital area. And that, as far as I’m concerned, is an indecent assault.’ He told his parents, and demanded to be taken out of the school.
When his parents told the headmaster what had happened, ‘he went ballistic. He wanted me to name ‘em and they’d already threatened that they were going to do all sorts of physical things to me’. The headmaster said that the boys would be expelled immediately, but Declan refused to name them.
Declan continued his education at a state high school. After leaving he found that, ‘everything in my life is related to when I was indecently assaulted, which was related to me being subjected to aggravated assaults at the school before’.
The abuse he experienced at school had a huge impact on Declan’s adult life. It has affected, ‘everything. My attitude to life. My attitude to other people … It’s affected my jobs, employment, the whole works. Never been able to stay stable in one job. Moving around, going from one job to another …’
Declan reported the sexual abuse to the police in the mid-2000s. They questioned the men he named, but they all denied the assault so no further action was taken.
Declan believes that if ‘[the school would] compensate me so that my father could not have had a reason to be chastising me over wasting his money, then my life would have been totally different. I’m not interested in the hugs and kisses and the mediation and all the other bullshit that goes with that. I want the cold, hard cash, so I can get on with my life’.