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Dougal James's story

Dougal attended a prestigious Anglican college in the suburbs of Melbourne in the 1940s and 50s. During this period he was sexually abused by staff on a number of occasions.

He told the Commissioner that a Father Blake had ‘attempted to grope me’ when they were out together. ‘I remember going to some function with Blake when we were both in the back seat of the car – I shouldn't laugh but it was hysterical – and Blake's on one side and sort of his hand sort of reaching over, so I'm edging over, and in the end there was about that much distance between us.’

The students were aware of inappropriate behaviour from various men working at the school. ‘It may sound amazing, but we knew how to look after each other.’

Dougal recalls an incident where a teacher had attempted to get into bed with a student in their sleeping quarters, but it was ‘sorted’ out by those present. ‘We took it in our stride, whereas today there would be arrests.’

In the mid-1950s a Mr Davidson ‘groped’ Dougal. ‘He didn't get to first base because I whacked him. My grievance with Davidson is that he groomed me for two or three years, “You'll be a priest, you'll be a wonderful priest”. He used to drive me around to all church things and do this with other boys and nobody ever said, “Oh, you know, Mr Davidson has done this or done that”, but a few people said, “Watch out for him”. He was a priest in training at that stage.’

Dougal remembers Davidson as ‘very talented, witty, very good musician, he taught music and religious studies. A very clever man but unable, it seems, to contain his appetite for young boys’. Dougal didn’t tell anyone what Davidson had done at the time, as ‘in those days nobody believed that priests or other ministers of religion would do this’.

Many years later he found out that, although he’d considered himself to be ‘a random thing that Davidson had taken upon to assault’, the now-ordained priest had gone on to be a prolific offender for several decades. He believes that Davidson was interviewed by police regarding similar incidents with boys outside the school while he was still teaching there.

For a while Dougal thought he wanted to be a priest. Although he married, he didn’t have children. ‘I know why I never had children. I remember having this concept of protecting my unborn son.’

Around a decade ago Dougal contacted the Anglican Church’s professional standards board, who he has found to be supportive. A senior member of the Church in Sydney, where Davidson had later taught, told him an investigation would not be conducted into the teacher’s behaviour as ‘it would cost too much’.

Recently Dougal returned to the school and spoke with the current principal, Mr Brownlow, about the abuse. Brownlow appeared to be clearly shocked, and Dougal later received a cheque for $25,000 from the school. ‘In retrospect I feel, for the trauma it caused, it was worth much more.’

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