Donall was born in the mid-1960s, and grew up with his parents and siblings in a northern suburb of Sydney. He was a ‘pleasant and polite’ child from an apparently happy family, and ‘really enjoyed’ being a boy scout in the 1970s.
Donall’s father was ‘a bit of an ogre’, but his scoutmaster, Percy Malvern, was an ‘avuncular’ man who became a father figure. ‘We all sort of loved him, in a way’, Donall said.
When Malvern started to sexually abuse him, Donall simply thought that it was what adults did. ‘I was so naive. I had no idea that that was wrong, until the last time when I knew it was wrong because what he did was painful.’ The abuse occurred in the homes of Malvern’s family members, as well as in his car. ‘The last time when he inserted his finger into my anus, I didn’t like that at all. That’s why I got out of the bed’, Donall said.
Malvern used a type of ‘emotional blackmail’ to keep Donall quiet. He called him ‘dirty’, and said there would be no more camps if he ever told anyone.
Malvern was ‘clever’ and ‘crafty’ enough to also groom Donall’s parents. ‘Mum and Dad actually invited Malvern to dinner, so of course they liked him. They had complete faith in him. That’s how bold he was, that he’d accept a dinner invitation at the same period where he was abusing me.’
Around this time, ‘two factions of parents’ were at loggerheads. One faction wanted Malvern reported to the police. The other refused to believe that this ‘jolly’ and ‘avuncular’ and ‘lovely’ person would interfere with their children. However later, ‘when it all came out’, the two factions came together. ‘There were lots of tears and hugs and “Okay, you were right after all”.’
Donall gets ‘cross’ when people ask him why he didn’t tell anyone at the time. ‘Well, I was so full of guilt and shame, I didn’t even tell my parents’, he said. However, in the mid-1990s, Donall was able to ‘open up’ when his dad put two and two together.
‘My father told me there was a police taskforce looking into the activities of the Scouts … There was a report on TV, and he noticed I was sort of like acting strangely, and he said, “Don’t tell me it’s happened to you?” I said, “Well, yes”.’ After this disclosure, Donall contacted the taskforce and gave a statement to the police over the phone.
While Donall did very well academically, he felt lost after finishing his university degree, and sank into a ‘deep depression’. Depression runs in his family, so he knows he can’t hang all of his problems ‘on one hook’. However, the combination of ‘endogenous’ depression and child sexual abuse has made his life very difficult. ‘I’ve seen so many doctors. I’ve had so much medication. I’m amazed I’m still around actually … There’s been four suicide attempts, I think.’
He has also smoked a lot of marijuana at times and developed a liking for alcohol which, to this day, gives him a ‘transcendental way of dealing with stress’.
His career in the entertainment industry has been affected by his ‘subconscious fear of authority figures’. In an industry ‘which is full of egos, treachery and backstabbing’, he tried to avoid some of the more ‘appalling’ people. However, Donall said, ‘they think I’m not obeying orders, and it turns to shit, basically’. He has lost a number of jobs as a result.
At the time Donall spoke to the Commissioner, his life was very challenging. Unemployed, and hit hard by a death in the family, he recently ‘went off the rails’ and lacked the confidence to look for work. However, he lives with good friends, has a good doctor and appropriate medication, and is working solidly on a major project of his own.
He is also pursuing a civil case against Malvern who is serving a lengthy prison sentence for the sexual abuse of other boys. He sees no need to pursue a criminal case because the man is already in jail.
Despite his struggles, two catalytic incidents have compelled Donall to come and speak to the Royal Commission.
The first catalyst came when a friend told him that Malvern had molested him. Donall likewise disclosed, and soon discovered that not only did the Scouts lack protective checks and controls, they had actually promoted the exposed Malvern to the position of District Commissioner, giving him access to dozens of other boys.
‘That they could willingly let this predator continue on with his sinful behavior when they knew about it,’ is the thing that makes Donall most angry. ‘That is a huge crime in my eyes. They had no respect for the other boys, the subsequent boys, and it’s just appalling behavior.’
The second catalyst was watching Cardinal George Pell give evidence to the Royal Commission. ‘When he made that appalling remark, in that whiny voice of his, “Well, I didn’t have much interest in it at the time”, in … paedophilia, you could hear the gasps’, Donall said. ‘I just thought, look, I’m sick of hearing all these lies, and I want to hear my voice, I want to have my say. And if I can help other victims … I’d be very pleased.’