Emmett’s mother passed away in the early 1940s. ‘Dad couldn’t look after us but it was also war time … Through the war years we didn’t see much of Dad … Nobody was allowed to know where he was going.’
When Emmett was 10, he and his brothers were put into an Anglican children’s home east of Perth. He remembered it as a harsh place, with frequent physical abuse. ‘Violent thrashing with a leather belt. Bare buttocks. Back of the legs.’
The children lived in cottages, which were run by one or two ‘cottage parents’. ‘Some were good, some were not so good. Most of them were doing a job, and they were pretty reasonable.’
Sometimes, the adults would supervise the boys in the showers. Emmett said, at first, there wasn’t anything sexual about it. But the cottage parents weren’t always the only ones watching. ‘A lot of times the nuns would come in there as well. And this is a part of it that’s sort of subtle. There’d be the occasional brushing past and things like that.’
He also recalled a pair of cottage parents who would stand outside and watch the boys through the window; sometimes the husband and wife, sometimes just the wife. ‘And that’s when the abuse started. She started interfering with us … Some of it was fondling. Some masturbation.’
Emmett’s worst memory concerns the man who ran the home, Father Bertram Addy. ‘There would have been grooming. I was an altar boy, and I had to help in church pretty frequently. Go over to the priest’s house and do odd jobs.’
Around the age of 12, Emmett was sexually abused by Father Addy. He still finds it very difficult to talk about and would only say, ‘That was painful’.
There was also abuse by a second cottage mother. ‘Probably in her 50s, I would think, at the time … a spinster, not too many men around, the end of the war … Father Addy was painful. What she was doing was pleasant. So I wasn’t complaining.’
‘There was nobody to report to. I didn’t want to tell anybody about that.’
‘There’s one thing I’ve thought about and found, I don’t know any boy, particularly a teenager, who’s going to admit to somebody else that he’s been masturbating, or somebody’s been masturbating him.’
‘When they threw me out to work I’m thinking that’s normal; normal behaviour.’
Emmett left the home in the early 1950s. ‘There’s 150 kids back there that I knew. Here, I know nobody. Totally new suburb. I didn’t even know where I was in relation to the city. Everything was completely new.
‘Trying to make friends, trying to find mates, trying to find a girlfriend. And what I thought was pretty normal behaviour, the girls … didn’t want anything to do with me. Too forward. And they told their mates, they told their brothers. And I was shunned … From the time I was sent out to work at 16, until I got called up for national service, I had no friends.’
Emmett got married in his mid-twenties, but said he was only accepting responsibility for getting a woman pregnant. As his children grew up he described himself as a ‘fairly stand-offish’ father.
‘A couple of times I thought, yeah, I could get closer, then I started thinking, I’ve got to be careful here too, in case I start interfering.’
He never reported the abuse in the children’s home to police. ‘By the time I got out of there, I was so happy to get away from the place that I wanted to forget the whole lot … I became very insular right from the start. “I can handle it. I’m the only one who can. Back off”. Very self-sufficient.’
It wasn’t until the late 2000s, when he applied to the Western Australia government redress scheme, that Emmett first spoke about the sexual abuse. And, like so many survivors, he has always felt its impact.
There were feelings of worthlessness, as well as anxiety and depression and thoughts of suicide. For a long time Emmett’s only answer was alcohol. But above all, he’s been angry for 60 years. ‘There’s still a lot of anger. And I need to get rid of that anger. Somehow.’
However, when he spoke to the Commissioner, Emmett was positive. He’s been sober for more than two decades and has become closer to his children. He’s also enjoying being a grandfather.
Emmett is in a new relationship, too. ‘I can’t use the word “love” but it’s an affection.’
‘I find it very confusing. Because it’s an emotion I’ve never had.’