Fergus was made a ward of the New South Wales state in the early 1960s when he was two years old. He believes that the nuns and Brothers in the two institutions he lived in for 10 years used him as ‘a pawn’ and knew that he was being sexually abused but ignored it because both men who abused him were influential in their communities.
One man managed a supermarket and was a significant donor of money and produce to the Sisters of Mercy children’s home in which Fergus lived. For four years from the age of six Fergus stayed with the man on weekends and was taken on camping trips where the man would engage ‘in all types of molestation’. When Fergus disclosed the abuse to the nuns at the home, they didn’t believe him and took active measures to punish him.
At the age of about 11, Fergus was sent to a Marist Brothers boys’ home in outer Sydney. There he was abused by one of the workers who as well as working in the home was involved, through his family, in the management of a large company. Fergus told one of the Brothers what the man was doing but was ‘flogged’ for doing so.
‘It got down to violence in the end. The Brothers treated me pretty badly you know like, wouldn’t believe me and this gentleman just went on to the next boy. I know this. Marist Brothers yeah, they never believed what was going on – like the nuns. So it just got down to a stage where you just shut your mouth because it’s not worth getting beaten up for something that you’re trying to get across.’
When he was 14, Fergus went home to live with his mother, and shortly afterwards tried to take his own life by overdosing on his mother’s medication.
He said it took a long time for him to have a relationship with a woman but he’d been with his present wife for 25 years. She’d also experienced significant abuse as a child, something Fergus thought allowed for mutual support. He’d always been strict with his children, especially his daughters. ‘I wouldn’t let them go anywhere and I was like, if I didn’t like [a boyfriend], I’d tell him to leave straight off the bat.’
Fergus never reported the men to NSW Police and hadn’t taken legal action against either institution.
‘I’ve never gone to the police because what’s the use, really? It’s only more hardship for not getting anywhere with it you know, trying to start to get these people back in line and get them arrested for what they did for children when there’s too much involved. I could not have handled the knock back.’
He recommended more thorough screening of potential carers and those who took children on outings. There were some families with whom he’d had positive experiences and sport had always been the ‘outlet’ that helped him keep going.
‘The swimming pool was my security blanket. There were great people, don’t get me wrong; I did go with people that were really nice, but it’s just these couple of worms that it’s taken me ages to get over.’