Doyle never knew his father. He and his siblings were brought up in Tasmania by a single mother with alcohol problems. ‘There was a bit of violence growing up, violence with her and her drinking friends.’
Over the years the children also had a couple of ‘stepfathers’, but Doyle said his mother’s relationships with men were usually violent, too.
In the mid-1970s, when Doyle was around five years old, he and his older brother met an Anglican priest who ran a social club.
‘At first he befriended us, then, you know, giving us stuff, letting us play on the pool table in the club, letting us have the run of the place, giving us lollies and Coca-Cola.
‘With Mum being drunk most of the time, we could come and go as we want. She didn’t worry about us.’
And that was perhaps the most important reason for the boys to spend so much time with the priest. Doyle remembered thinking, ‘Someone cares about us’.
But, after grooming them for a while, the priest began sexually abusing Doyle and his brother at the club. ‘It just escalated … going around there every day and being with him, and him listening to us and giving us what we want. He started giving us alcohol as well. One thing led to another and then the touching started.’
The abuse went on for more than a year, and the priest didn’t stop at touching. ‘He ended up giving us pills too, Valium, and sometimes I’d black out.’
The boys were too frightened to say anything because they felt the priest had all the power, but the abuse eventually became so bad that they found the courage to tell their mother.
Doyle said she went straight to the police station, ‘but the police really didn’t do nothing at that time. They said they’d look into it, nothing was ever done about it’.
Over the next few years Doyle continued to live with his mother, even though he was made a ward of the state and spent periods of time in care. At the age of 12 he was placed in a boys’ home in Hobart for a couple of months.
‘I’ve got some bad memories from that place, being abused in there as well.’
Doyle said he was an easy target because he was one of the home’s youngest residents. He recalled being physically and sexually assaulted by older boys on several occasions. And, after also being bashed by a probation officer, he again didn’t feel there was anyone he could tell or trust.
Not long after this, to get away from the memories, Doyle left school and Tasmania. He got a job travelling around mainland Australia but, by his mid-teens, he was substance dependent and living on the streets. He also spent some time in jail for alcohol and drug-related offences. ‘Stuff I wouldn’t have done if I had my head thinking straight.’
Doyle lived on the streets for 20 years until he became a father. He and his partner had three children but their relationship didn’t last. The children, left with a single father with a troubled history, were soon put into foster care.
But, as much as he misses his kids, Doyle only wants what’s best for them. ‘As long as they’re happy, they’re settled. I can’t give them what they want now, I’ve got my own problems to deal with.’
When he spoke to the Commissioner, Doyle had a place to live and was free of his addictions. When asked about what gives him strength, he didn’t have to think about it. ‘The kids, set an example for them. When they get a bit older I don’t want them thinking their dad’s just a drop-out.
‘I didn’t have a dad when I was kid. I just want them to have what I really never had.’
With the help of a lawyer Doyle is looking at making a claim for compensation from the Anglican Church. And, after coming to the Royal Commission, he thinks it might be time to finally get some counselling.
‘I’m actually feeling better now that I’m talking about it.
‘I feel like I’m being heard.’
Doyle’s recommendation for the Commission was simple. ‘Just hope that when someone does say something that it does get looked into. Not like what happened to us.
‘I don’t want this happening to no one else. I never want it to happen to my kids.’