Duncan Owen's story

Duncan attended a Catholic school run by the Christian Brothers in Victoria in the early 1960s. The headmaster, Brother Brian, was very violent and was feared by the students.

Duncan told the Commissioner that Brother Brian regularly sexually abused him during Grades 5 and 6. He believes a number of other boys were also being abused.

‘We’d be called, not only myself, but there was quite a few got called up every so often … I got called about five, six times over a period of about 12 months … to his office.’

Duncan was taken into the office and ‘he’d just be talking about growing up and having, “Do you have any problems” and all this. The first time, [he] just said, “Well, would you like me to check if everything’s all right with you” and all that, and he took me pants down and … told me to sit on his knee and touched and … you know’.

The abuse continued until one day on the way to either ‘footy or cricket training …’

‘I remember him coming up to me and saying, “You still having any problems” and all that. “I want you to come and see me in me office”, and I just bolted. Got on me bike and took off and [he] never approached me again’.

The other boys were aware of what Brother Brian was doing, because Duncan remembered overhearing another boy saying, ‘Oh, he’s got another one’. When Duncan tried to tell his mother about the abuse, she said to him, ‘Oh, don’t be silly. A Christian Brother wouldn’t do that’.

Duncan believes that other staff must have known what was going on. ‘It just seemed too many, it was happening to too many.’ Because Brother Brian and some of the other Brothers were so violent, the boys would have been too afraid to tell anyone about the abuse.

Duncan told the Commissioner, ‘I tried to put everything out of me mind and I just didn’t really ever trust anyone any more. Me grades went down. They crashed, until the guy stopped, and they greatly improved’.

When a counsellor came to the school, a number of boys, including Duncan, were given one-on-one sessions with him.
He said to Duncan, ‘“Look I know you’ve got a problem. I want you to tell me what it is” and I just could not tell him at all because, obviously, “Oh, my God, he’s working for the school. It’ll get back to him”’.

Duncan has never received any counselling to help him cope with the abuse he experienced as a child, and does not believe it would help. ‘Every so often it hits me, but you know, I can’t see …’

In the early 2000s, Duncan heard that Brother Brian had been charged with sexual offences against children, but because of ill-health, he did not receive a jail sentence. It was around this time that Duncan began talking about his abuse, although he still finds it difficult.

Many years after the abuse occurred, Duncan was working as a tradesman, and he was sent to complete a job at his old school. When he found out that the job was in the same room where he had been abused, Duncan couldn’t do it. He phoned his boss and told him he couldn’t do the job, but didn’t tell him why.


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