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Drake's story

For three years until he was 15, in the early 1970s, Drake was accosted in the recessed areas of his local Catholic church and sexually abused by the parish priest.

The priest, Father Norbert Conroy, later exposed as a serial paedophile, also took Drake away on drives after dinner and on week-long excursions to country towns, sometimes with other altar boys.

‘You’d get to a certain stage of the day and you’d start panicking about what’s going to happen tonight. What am I up for tonight.’

Drake recalls Conroy befriended his happy, close-knit but ‘blinkered’ family – his ‘devout’ mother in particular. She had several priests as relatives so there was ‘a lot of faith put in priests’ by the family.

Father Conroy would ask if he could take Drake for a ‘drive’ or to go ‘fishing, camping, being close to the beach’ which his father could not do as he worked a lot of nights.

‘I can remember the first time quite vividly, which was typically he’d come down either at dinner time for dinner and he’d suggest to Mum in particular that we go for a drive, and we’d either go down … to the breakwater, or we’d go out to remote areas … rivers …

‘The first time I can remember was oral on me and then it progressed to a whole range of different abuse’, including rape from the time Drake was 12.

Soon Drake became ‘more disruptive at school’. His studies suffered and he found it ‘difficult to concentrate, difficult to try and keep the secret’.

‘I just felt that I was sort of burdened with this issue that I couldn’t share with anybody.’

Even when Conroy was later ‘transferred’, he returned several times to Drake’s regional town and ‘asked Mum and Dad if he could take me to [his new parish] and spend a week or so down there. That was a one-on-one in the presbytery’, which resulted for Drake in the most severe sexual abuse. He was nearly 15.

Within months ‘it just came to an end. He [Conroy] just didn’t return’.

After leaving school early Drake got a job. Later he moved to a large city, met a girl in his teens, married her and had children, of whom he said he was ‘extremely protective’.

Early in his long marriage, there were ‘intimacy issues … I was mixed up, didn’t know which side of the fence I was on ... she just stayed there. She was remarkable’.

However he is not sure he will ever share his abuse with other family members ‘or whether they need to be burdened with it’.

With some help from alcohol, Drake ‘endeavoured to block it [the abuse] out as much as I possibly could, and I think I did a pretty good job’.

Local police approached his mother in the 1990s and he cooperated, resulting in multiple charges against Conroy involving a number of boys, including Drake.

His mother ‘just didn’t want to know about it’, though, she ‘just wanted to shut down’ despite knowing that Drake was back in town at the same time as the first court proceedings against Conroy.

'It was rewarding that I could play a part in making him [Conroy] accountable’, Drake said.

‘If there was any disappointing part of it, it was standing there to put my part forward in the box and to look out into the crowd and see priests that were family relatives sitting there to support him.’

One in particular, Drake recalled, was ‘astonished’ to see him at court.

Drake’s appearances in church now are strictly limited to weddings and funerals. None of his priestly relatives have ever approached him to talk about Conroy’s abuse.

‘They’re supposed to be out there consoling and working with people … but to brush it aside and never want to sit down and talk to me again ...’

Once, when his now late parents visited him, Drake’s father took him for a Sunday drive revealing he ‘was more upset that they’d let me down, that they couldn’t see the issue [of abuse at the time]’.

Now, Drake looks back and realises his parents ‘could have done a bit more … it’s more disappointment that they were so blinkered to the Church and couldn’t see right from wrong’.

Drake approached the Church for compensation in the late 1990s which ‘went to mediation and effectively that was another form of abuse that was extremely aggressive. They just wanted to contest it and push back and fight’.

After several days, he was advised to accept the $75,000 settlement offer – ‘a third of it went to the solicitors’.

And it was not Drake, but his mother who was eventually visited by the local bishop and given an apology.

Now a grandfather in his 50s, Drake has worked in the same industry for decades and feels better off than ‘blokes that I’ve gone to school with … that are no longer with us that were probably abused and didn’t come out the other side of it’.

He has never had counselling and questions whether he needs it. ‘I’ve probably become a bit bitter and twisted about the Catholic Church and that disappoints me ... the fact that they haven’t been forthcoming from the family or from any other aspect.’ He also has little to do with his wider family.

Children, Drake said, need an opportunity to express themselves early enough about child sexual abuse. And he recommended education on recognisable signs of abuse to improve parental awareness in order to overcome naivety.

Speaking to the Royal Commission was his contribution.

‘I just want to keep taking this thing forward … I just want to try and make sure that we end up in a better place.’

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