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Dino's story

As 14-year-old students at a Marist Brothers school in Queensland, Dino and other boys were given alcohol by Brother James Hawkins, with the teacher making sexually suggestive comments towards them. Then at 15, Dino was sexually abused by Hawkins over a period of six months. The Brother would take off Dino’s clothes, touch and kiss him and then perform oral sex. Dino was threatened that if he told anyone, he’d be expelled and his parents informed about what he was doing.

In the early 1990s, Dino was with Hawkins in his study when another Brother knocked on the door. ‘He was doing stuff to me’, Dino said, ‘and one of the Brothers was trying to get in. We had to get organised – put my clothes back on – and when we went out we looked suspicious, because I was terrified.’

The following week Dino was approached by the school counsellor, Brother Matthew Bishop. He asked Dino what his relationship was with Hawkins, and Dino disclosed the abuse. His mother was notified and the police were called. Dino was asked if he wanted to press charges.

‘I may have said, “No, I don’t”, which I don’t understand, though. It wasn’t as if it was the 50s or 60s ... I find it weird that the police didn’t do anything.’

Hawkins was immediately removed from the school, but no further action was taken. In subsequent months, Dino started seeing Brother Bishop for counselling but it didn’t last long. In correspondence seen by Dino 20 years later, Bishop wrote that he was a ‘sexual deviant’, had begun making sexual advances towards him and that he needed to see a female counsellor.

After leaving school, Dino began a career in education. In his private life, he was drinking excessively, using a variety of drugs and participating in high-risk sex. He’d made several suicide attempts, the first in his mid-teens. For many years he had relationships with men who were either markedly older or younger, in part he thought, as a way of re-enacting the abusive relationship.

In the early 2010s, Dino’s life began to ‘fall apart’. A succession of events including the appointment of a work colleague who looked and sounded like Hawkins led to him finally seeking help. He took leave and was supported by his long-time friend, Jackie. The two then developed a closer relationship and later married.

With Jackie’s encouragement, Dino contacted the Marist Brothers to report the abuse. He was directed to Towards Healing and, over the course of this process, discovered that a complaint had been made about Hawkins sexually abusing a boy in the 80s. Hawkins had been sent overseas ‘for treatment’, and returned in the early 90s after a psychologist’s report cleared him to teach as long as he wasn’t affected by alcohol.

Dino said he received a verbal and written apology from the Marist Brothers, but not an admission that they were negligent in re-employing Hawkins and allowing him to work with children.

Because they knew of Hawkins’s behaviour, the payment Dino received was paid by the Marist Brothers and archdiocese, not the Church’s insurance company.

In the years following his abuse, Dino said he lost faith in people and God. He was now trying to reconnect with both.

‘From Year 7, I was actively involved in [the Church] as an altar boy. The closeness and love I felt from God was amazing. I was heavily involved in religious education and studies in school. The Catholic Church was everything to me since I was a young boy. My family all believed that I would become a priest one day.

‘After Year 10, everything changed. I felt like I didn’t even have a place in the Church. By the time I left high school, I stopped being involved … For many years, I believed God was dead. This caused the greatest of conflicts between my parents and myself. Looking back now, I can see that I didn’t want to believe or be associated with an institution that couldn’t even protect its own children.’

He said he had no plans to report the abuse again to police. ‘I don’t want to have to deal with stuff. I want to work on my family. This here is the last step for me.’

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