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Edward Warren's story

Edward grew up in a small rural community in Victoria, where there was a Catholic church, but no full-time priest. On Sundays one of the priests from a nearby town would come to the church to perform mass.

Edwards’s wife, Flo, who accompanied him to his private session at the Royal Commission, recalled that the priests were ‘treated like gods back then, weren’t they … They let ‘em into their houses. They gave ‘em tea. They were just like part of your family’.

In the early 1960s, when he was eight or nine, Edward became an altar boy. ‘I used to come there half an hour, three-quarters of an hour early to set up everything in the church [and] that’s how it started …’ Edward was sexually abused by one of the priests who came to the church, during the three or four months that he served as an altar boy.

There was a small room where the altar boys and priests changed into their garments and this was where the abuse occurred. ‘He’d lock both doors … He used to do that even if nothing happened.’

There were only three altar boys in the small community, and only one or two of them were in attendance each week. Edward told the Commissioner that he would be very surprised if he was the only one abused by the priest.

‘If it happened to me, it’d have to have happened to somebody else with the same fella. It’s unnatural not to.’

Edward believes that the woman who cleaned the church must have realised what was happening. He recalled that she tried to get into the room on one occasion after the priest had locked it, and she then told Edward, ‘Don’t come in early anymore’.

Edward believes that the woman’s warning must have set off alarm bells in his head, and soon after he refused to be an altar boy anymore.

Between the ages of nine and 13, Edward’s life was in turmoil. Both his parents drank excessively. After his mother left, and the only other sibling still at home went to live elsewhere, Edward was left alone with his alcoholic father.

At 13 Edward ‘pissed off’ and went to live by himself. ‘When you get to 13 and you go out on your own and there’s not much … Them days, you’d get a job pretty easy, but the point is, there was no pay either, so it’s a thing where you have to help yourself more than anything. But what can you do?’

Edward began stealing to make ends meet and ended up in and out of juvenile detention centres and jail for the next few years.

Edward has been with Flo for over 40 years and their relationship has at times been a little rocky, especially during the early years when he was drinking to excess. He no longer drinks because he didn’t want to set a bad example for his children. These days he finds himself warning them not to drink too much.

Edward came to the Royal Commission after ‘a fellow was on TV … and it got me going. Not the memory. It got me going in the situation of, people didn’t believe me at all. Not a thing. And it went on for years. This went on for years … The thing is, then they started believing. They never even listened before … That’s why I never said anything for a long, long time, you know ...

‘When you talk about it now … I wish it had’ve happened 50 years ago but then, it’s a thing where, what would happen 50 year ago? Nothing … Even if he admitted it, he would have been [sent] somewhere else.’

Both Edward and Flo would like the Catholic Church to acknowledge the abuse that occurred.

Flo declared, ‘I’ve got no respect for the Church anymore. To me it’s a load of shit. They’re like a big sect’.

And Edward added, ‘I hope [the Royal Commission does] something. I’m telling you … they just can’t keep denying it all the time, can they …

‘I reckon I’ll be dead before it changes. They’ve been going for that long now it’s ridiculous. Ridiculous.’

Edward found it difficult to come to his private session at the Royal Commission. ‘Honestly, a couple of times there I weren’t too shit hot today, but … If I didn’t come and nobody else come, it’d be useless.’

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