‘A lot of my problem is with the school and how they got away with it. I’m very cranky with the school … I wasn’t sure whether they’d call mine sexual abuse because he hasn’t penetrated me in any way. But I’ve had photos and everything taken of me, I’ve been told that that's sexual abuse.
'For years I was thinking I’m not in this category but, as you know, it does affect you.’
As a 12-year-old in the early 1970s, Dermot was a student at the Sydney Catholic boys’ high school all his brothers had gone to. The science and sports teacher was Barry ‘Caspar’ Spring, one of the only lay teachers in a school where the Marist Brothers ‘were bosses’.
After football training, Spring would nominate a group of boys to help pack up equipment. Permitted to kick the football around on the oval, they’d arrive late in the shower block. Once there, Spring would take photos of the boys naked, telling them he was only taking head shots. Over a period of years, Spring photographed hundreds of boys, including Dermot.
Spring also selected favoured boys to go to football matches and on excursions in his car. Dermot thought of them as teacher’s pets and he wasn’t one of them. On several occasions he resisted Spring’s attempts to single him out or corner him for special treatment. From the early 2000s, Spring was charged with a series of child sex offences, and looking back, Dermot realised the boys he thought of as favoured were probably victims of serious sexual abuse.
Dermot told the Commissioner that his family had contributed to the Marist Brothers school for several generations. In light of this, he felt it unjust when he was expelled in 1974 for receiving stolen chocolates from several classmates. They’d broken into an adjoining school and defecated in one of the classrooms. Dermot was charged with receiving stolen goods and attended children’s court where he was given a good behaviour bond. As well as being expelled from school, he also had a criminal record.
‘I was always crooked on the school for kicking me out’, Dermot said. ‘He was a paedophile and it’s all come back, him taking pictures. They kicked me out and kept him. That’s what gets under my skin now. And seeing pictures of him in the paper.’
News reports of Spring’s conviction and sentencing continued for decades and beyond his death, such was the extent of his abusing. Some people knew Dermot had been taught by Spring and teased him about it.
‘Some things can get me going … I walk in the pub and there’s a picture of Caspar Spring in the paper and me mate yells out, “Hey, Dermot. Your mate Caspar Spring’s in the paper again!” … I’ve copped that years ago, and I’ve got to cop that now and I’ll be copping it next year. I’ve got to cop it for the rest of my life.
‘One bloke, just because he’s a low-life, he just wants to get under my skin, and they yell that out across the pub so everyone in the pub knows. Not good. I’ve got to live with that, you know what I mean?’
After Spring’s conviction, Dermot contacted a Catholic Church office but the person with whom he spoke was dismissive of what he said, so he hung up the phone. In early 2014, he was struggling emotionally and rang the Marist Brothers in distress asking for help. They put him in touch with a psychologist and he continued to see that person on a regular basis.
He told the Commissioner he was on a Newstart allowance and applying for a disability support pension. Though a psychiatrist had supported his application, he’d been twice rejected by Centrelink.
‘I wouldn’t mind some financial help. I can’t get a job and I’ve been trying for years to get back on me pins. I’ve gone for every job I can … I can’t get a job and I can’t get help.
'It’s not easy. You go to Centrelink and they just treat you like, your depression, like you’re putting this on. I don’t know it’s child abuse. It doesn’t say that on the medical certificate, so they just treat you like you’re a scammer. It’s not good. Not good.’