‘I’ve never really thought highly of myself’, Eamon told the Commissioner.
Eamon’s family lived in remote Western Australia, and Eamon grew up spending a lot of time in the bush on his own. He was very shy and quiet – ‘a daydreamer’ – and also naive. In the early 1970s, he was sent as a Year 7 student to join his older brother John at an Anglican boarding school. At that time he had barely ever heard the word ‘sex’ spoken, and certainly had no idea what it was.
When Eamon arrived at the age of 12, he hated the school culture. Bullying was entrenched and senior students had licence to do whatever they liked to the younger boys. He was the youngest in his dormitory of 13 and 14-year-olds, and a victim of physical abuse by the older boys. He was also sexually abused by his housemaster, Reverend Mellefont.
This happened for the first time when Eamon had been at the school for a few weeks. ‘I awoke prior to ejaculating, to find Mellefont kneeling on the floor with his head on the side of the bed and his hand under the sheet masturbating me’, Eamon said in a written statement. He was too frightened to speak and after a while, Mellefont got up and continued his rounds.
For the remainder of that year, Mellefont abused Eamon weekly, when he went to collect his pocket money. The boys would line up outside his office and be called in one at a time. ‘I would walk in closing the door behind me’, Eamon recalled. ‘I had to stand “at ease” with my hands behind my back. Before giving me my pocket money, Mellefont would put his hand up the leg of my shorts and fondle my genitals. He would then give me my money, I’d sign for it and leave.’
Year 7 boys weren’t allowed to wear trousers, they had to wear shorts. Eamon persuaded his parents to ask if he could wear long pants but permission was refused. So the abuse continued – and Eamon is positive other Year 7 boys had the same experience – until the following year, when long pants were finally allowed.
‘I couldn’t tell anyone’, Eamon said. ‘I believed they’d say it was my fault.’
At one point during the year his father came to visit. ‘I told him I had to leave. But I couldn’t tell him why … He said “No, you can’t; I’ve already paid for it”. So I kind of lost faith in everything.’
Eamon’s father didn’t ask why he wanted to leave. The police weren’t interested either when they picked up Eamon and his brother John at two in the morning. The boys had run away from school and were heading for home. ‘They just threw us in the back of the wagon and took us back. They didn’t bother asking why.’
John was eventually expelled and Eamon was advised to leave, too. He didn’t finish his education and began drinking at 16. He’s had different jobs over the years but said, ‘I’ve never really accomplished anything’.
Eamon didn’t disclose the abuse until the early 90s. ‘For some reason I couldn’t say it before my mother died.’ He told his sister then, who told his father, who told John. But the telling didn’t make much difference.
‘I wasn’t a conversationalist’, he explained. His difficulty communicating has held him back from seeking support. ‘I’ve always thought that in order to get any benefit from counsellors and stuff you have to actually be able to talk – and I was never one to explain anything …
‘I think it’s because I have a whole history of people misinterpreting what I say. They assume they know what I’m talking about when I haven’t even finished the sentence.’
It was the ‘constant failure of relationships’ that prompted him to visit the Royal Commission, he said. He had told his partner about Mellefont’s abuse and she had turned it against him when their relationship ended. Arguing in the Family Court, she accused Eamon of sexually abusing their daughter.
‘It hurt me a lot.’
Eamon has not sought compensation for what Mellelfont did but is thinking about doing so now. ‘Up till recently I wasn’t even sure that anyone would consider that what happened to me was particularly serious’, he said.