‘I’m fucking angry’, Doug told the Commissioner.
‘Every day I’ve got to get up, I’m on medication. I said to my missus this morning “Fuck’s sake, I’ve got to take this shit every day. I’m sick of it”. And then they give me a psycho report … and the bloke goes to me “You’re not depressed”. I said “Well, thanks”. He goes “But they’ve put you on this medication to keep you calm”. Right? Because all I see is all the injustice. I see everything’s bullshit.’
In the late 1950s, when he was an infant, Doug and his brothers were sent to a Catholic-run children’s home. At six he was transferred to another home and finally at seven he arrived at a boys’ home that he would stay in until he was 15.
When describing the Christian Brothers that ran the home, Doug said ‘A lot of them couldn’t keep their hands off ya’. They were also brutal with the strap.
The home included cottages and Doug and his brothers were eventually housed in one run by Mr and Mrs Cahill. Discipline was harsh. The boys worked chores and got belted. ‘You were scared most of the time.’ The Cahills would also watch the boys in the shower and intrusively supervise them, giving instructions on where to wash themselves.
When Doug was about 11 the Cahills were replaced by Mr and Mrs Bellamy and their children. Again the boys were made to work, this time doing hard labour in the Bellamys’ business. Again they were watched and supervised while taking showers. The Beallmys brought their children in to watch too, including their daughter, Leanne.
Leanne, who was older than Doug, forced him to touch her sexually on a number of occasions. If he objected she would go to her parents and he would be beaten. ‘You couldn’t tell them because they wouldn’t believe you anyway.’ Doug was also forced to have sex with Leanne.
At about 13, for religious rather than medical reasons, Doug was circumcised. ‘It was bloody sore.’ He had no say in it and remembers that as part of the abuse.
‘We were put in there for care and protection. What we got was assaulted. Verbally abused. Mentally and physically, spiritually, emotionally. Right? They have scarred me inside. I am so fuckin’ fed up with it.’
When Doug left the home he had very little support. ‘Once I got out of [the boys’ home] first thing … I took all these drugs to try and forget everything. So what did I do? I walked into the chemist. Took all these drugs.’ Doug was hospitalised and then ‘locked up’ as a result.
At 15 Doug found his mother, meeting her for the first time, and lived with her. At one stage all his brothers turned up too. However, she had mental health issues and Doug feels she didn’t cope with suddenly having to look after them all. Doug became very protective of her. Doug is Aboriginal and found his mob where his father came from but he never met him as he had died.
Doug’s first marriage ended in ‘disaster’ because he was violent. ‘Well, you were brought up on violence.’ He doesn’t see his children from that marriage. He is very protective of the children from his current marriage.
Doug hasn’t reported Leanne Bellamy to the police. In his 40s he started to talk about the abuse for the first time since childhood.
He got a lawyer through an Aboriginal legal service to seek compensation from the Catholic Church. ‘They all worked out a deal. They paid us all $5,000 and told us to shut up.’
Given the trauma he experienced as a child, Doug feels bitterly let down by the Church. ‘With Pell not coming over to Ballarat to face everything, that’s just rubbing more salt into the wounds. It really is.’
Although Doug wasn’t able to make connections with his Aboriginal culture when he was young, he currently contributes to his community.
‘I work at [an] Aboriginal organisation. I work in environmental health. I work as a health worker … trying to mentor people, trying to get them on the right track. Now, I’m thinking “What a fuckin’ joke this is”. I’m trying my best to help someone and yet I’m fuckin’ hurting bad inside. Right? And they say “We’ll get a counsellor for you” and I think “Fuck I’m sick of this. I’m sick of talk, talk, talk”.’