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Devlin's story

For years after the incident, Devlin lived in fear that people would find out what happened to him and assume he was homosexual. In the back of his mind he carried doubts about his own sexuality, often wondering if Mr Gellar had seen something in him that defined him as gay.

Gellar was a lay teacher at the Catholic school that Devlin attended in Sydney in the early 1960s. ‘He was a very likeable bloke’, Devlin told the Commissioner. ‘He seemed okay, he seemed pretty good. He was one of my favourite teachers.’

When Devlin was 12, Gellar invited him to take a trip to the snow during the Easter break. Devlin was happy to go. His parents, too, thought it was a fine idea, though they grumbled about the cost.

A short while later, Devlin found himself in a small alpine town, sharing a hotel room with two other boys and Gellar. He was lying on the top bunk when Gellar began encouraging the two boys to masturbate each other. After directing them for a while, Gellar joined in. Devlin remained huddled in his bunk, terrified.

The next night was worse. Gellar got everyone to drink some alcohol and then guided the two boys into another sex act. It was clear, Devlin said, that the boys had been guided this way several times before. Gellar then turned his attention to Devlin.

‘He said it was about time I grew up and would I like to join in, and he’d show me all these good things et cetera, et cetera. So I did a runner. I bailed, got out. It was early snow that year and it was freezing, so in the end – I was hiding behind a bank on the road – I went to the managers' office, and got them out and they came back with me.’

Back at the room, Gellar explained to the managers that Devlin was behaving erratically because he’d been given too much alcohol. The managers believed him and left Devlin there in the room.

‘Nothing was said for the rest of the night and the next day we went back up to Sydney. Then I was invited to dinner and he basically threatened me, you know, what would happen: how my father would think I was a homosexual and all sorts of things he came up with.’

It was a calculated and effective threat that played on Devlin’s fears. ‘My father was the Irish brand of homophobic – the extreme, a very strict Catholic. I just couldn’t have said anything. Also, whenever I committed a misdemeanour, I was given a lecture on how much they were spending to send me to that school, and I couldn’t go against that.’

Unable to speak out, and terrified of going back to class with Gellar, Devlin pretended to be sick, hamming up the symptoms of his chronic fatigue to make it seem worse than it really was. The plan succeeded and he managed to avoid school for much of the year. By the time he returned, Gellar had left.

Devlin went on to finish high school with minimal fuss. He completed an apprenticeship and was sent, in a civilian capacity, to Saigon at the height of the Vietnam War.

In Vietnam, Devlin said he witnessed many acts that could be described only as ‘barbaric’. After returning to Australia he began experiencing flashbacks. In 2000 he sought help from a counsellor and was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The counselling sessions stirred up memories of the incident with Gellar, and Devlin went on to discuss it with the counsellor, and then his parents and sisters, all of whom were supportive.

To this day Devlin continues to receive counselling. He also gets support from a men’s group. He said that time and experience have changed the way he thinks about the incident – and about homosexuality.

‘I’m worried about what happened to the other two guys. And also about my opinion of them at the time. It took me quite a lot of years to stop being homophobic, and overtly so. I would classify them, put them in a box. And I feel a bit of guilt about that.’

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