On his first night at a Scout camp in Victoria in the late 1970s, Ern was sexually abused by a gang of older boys.
He wasn’t the first one to ‘get done’ that night. Before they got to him, Ern saw the gang pin down and abuse a young boy. They said it was part of the boy’s ‘initiation’.
Once they were done with the first boy, the gang attacked Ern. There were four in the gang, all of them older and bigger than Ern. Some of them held him down while others pulled off his pants and tried to rub toothpaste onto his testicles.
‘If they couldn’t get you with the toothpaste’, Ern said, ‘they had to try and roll you over and put the toothpaste straight up your bum. But I put up a bit of a fight’.
After abusing Ern, the gang attacked a third boy. Around this time one of the Scout leaders walked in.
‘And he knew what was going on. He said, “I’ll let you do what you have to do” and then walked out.’
When all the initiations were done the gang left Ern and the others alone and carried on with the camp activities as if everything were normal. But it was far from normal for Ern. Soon after the camp he quit Scouts and never went back.
Ern said that he never really worried about the incident for most of his life. Recently his attitude shifted a little. While doing some volunteer work on the streets with homeless and other disadvantaged people he started hearing a lot of tragic stories.
‘They used to talk to me and everything like that. They sort of trust me.’
This inspired Ern to come forward and tell his own story to the Royal Commission. It was the first time he’d mentioned it to anyone.
‘I sort of never worried about it or anything like that, but thought: if everyone else can tell their stories I’ll tell my story as well.’