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Ewan Michael's story

Ewan’s father was a workaholic, and his mother was unwell and had trouble coping with the children, so they were sent to boarding school. Ewan spent two years as a weekday boarder at a Catholic school run by the Marist Brothers in Victoria, in the late 1970s. He was 13 when he was sent there.

Ewan told the Commissioner, ‘You want to test the calibre of the person, you dump ’em on their arse and abandon them in the boarding school for two years, you know, in a shithole of an environment … what a nightmare. And then a paedo turns up’.

Ewan was in the school infirmary when one of the boarding masters, Darren Jones, began touching his penis. Ewan slapped the master’s hand away and stopped the abuse going any further.

‘For an adult to lean across and look at a young boy and pressure the young person with this really, we’ll call it, as ugly as this visualisation is, right, this seductive smile or look, and touch your private parts, you know, it’s just fair dinkum cruel, right. And that’s what happened to me and I was really lucky that, thank God, I mean …’

A couple of days later Mr Jones punched Ewan hard in the chest, which Ewan thinks was a warning for him not to say anything to anyone about what had happened. Ewan told the Commissioner that it would have been difficult to report the incident because he felt ashamed and embarrassed, and also ‘the issue that I had when I was molested, right, was that I had no one, or nothing … it was a different time … you’re completely paralysed in your ability to speak out because you don’t believe anyone will believe you and back in those days … if you went to the police station, you know, it was a different time. You would have been brushed off. You were a little kid. “Rack off”’.

Ewan has discovered that a number of ex-staff members from the school are under investigation and Mr Jones was not considered to be the worst offender. ‘I’m an ex-Catholic, for this one reason, that until they, the Church, come out and say “We’ve really done wrong. Sorry about that. We can’t undo the past. But you know what we can do? We can tip a hundred million dollars into a fund and start, you know, appropriate restitution for those that got really mucked up” … I didn’t, thank God … how lucky was I?’

Ewan told the Commissioner that he was ‘really appreciative that the Royal Commission said to me “We believe you. We believe it’s valid. We will hear you”’. He came forward because it was ‘good for me to move on, clearly. I think I have moved on … but I’m not going to be happy if in five years you know, something happens to any of my kids … you know, because I didn’t stand up and say to people … you know … I’ll feel better walking out the door’.

Ewan asked that the Commissioners put themselves in ‘the mindset of a vulnerable 10-year-old. What do they want? They want to go to a safe person … they’re believed. That they’re protected. That they’re taken out of danger … That they’re not returned 24 hours later and feel shamed and embarrassed’. Ewan suggested that the government assign a police officer (or other designated person) to each school, to visit fortnightly, so that children know they have a ‘safe person’ to talk to.

‘We should have our fundamental rights, where our children, me, our future generation, have a right of protection … there’s got to be a better system to protect the young, to protect the vulnerable.’

Ewan told the Commissioner that ‘I’m going to be elated if there’s tangible … fair dinkum outcomes that come out of this. Not a policy document that gets distributed to all the school principals and nothing happens, blah, blah, blah …

‘We, as a community … we’ve got to do a better job.’

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