Edward was 10 when his father died. He told the Commissioner, ‘I had no male role models to do all those outdoor activities that boys like to do’.
So in the early 1960s Edward joined a scouting troop in suburban Melbourne. He found the experience ‘terrific fun’ for the first year or so, and when scoutmaster Graham Clarke invited him to join some of the other boys on a trip to Clarke’s holiday house, Edward considered it a ‘privilege’.
Edward was assigned to share a double bed with his friend Tim. During the night Clarke got into bed between the two boys and attempted to fondle them both. Edward was so shocked he jumped out of bed, ran to the bathroom and locked himself in.
After a short while Edward realised that Tim had been left alone with Clarke and he returned to the room to help his friend. He took a knife from his scout pack and threatened Clarke. The scoutmaster laughed, got out of bed and masturbated in front of the two boys. Edward then threatened to contact a neighbour, who happened to be a police officer, and at this Clarke finally backed down and left the room.
The boys went home the next day and Edward didn’t mention the incident to anyone. He continued to participate in scouting activities but his perspective had radically changed.
‘It was like a curtain was lifted. I began to notice all sorts of homosexual behaviour that was encouraged between the boys – not just between the scoutmasters and the boys but that was encouraged between the boys themselves.’
One night while they were sitting at the campfire, one of Edward’s friends told him that the Scouts' district commissioner regularly took small groups of boys to the park after meetings, and participated in various sexual acts with them, including anal sex.
‘The things that other boys told me indicated to me without any doubt that all of the male scoutmasters, bar one, was involved in sexual activity with the boys … I believe a lot of the boys didn’t believe they were doing anything unnatural or wrong. They were just being guided by these adults.’
Edward did not report the abuse to anyone at the time.
‘There was nobody there who would draw that out of you. I couldn’t raise it with my mother, I would have been too embarrassed … In scouting itself I couldn’t have gone to anybody and felt comfortable talking about it, making a complaint. You wouldn’t have thought about going to the police about it. The police were – they were intimidating. That’s the way I felt about it. That was real serious stuff, you didn’t do that. That was for criminals.’
After a while Edward began to feel that the whole organisation was ‘tarnished’ and he left the scout troop.
‘I wasn’t particularly traumatised, but I was terribly disappointed … It was something that I enjoyed doing and looked forward to and it was all sort of crumbling around me. I lost faith.’
Edward never felt a strong compulsion to report the incident to the Scouts or police, but nevertheless it nagged at him over the years.
‘What was holding me back was that I never felt great need for revenge because I never felt that as an individual I was seriously injured by the experience. Like I say, it was more annoying and disappointing. So if it had been something that had scarred me, more intrusive, that I woke up thinking about in the night, then I’m sure I would have acted more positively sooner.
'But it never went away, obviously. It was always sitting there, and when I saw the Royal Commission I thought, “I wonder if they’re going to have a look at Scouts, because I think they really need to”.’