Finian was born in Ireland in the mid-1940s. At nine years of age, Fin was put on a ship and sent to Australia as ‘one of the last of the alleged war orphans’. When he arrived in Australia he was placed in a boys’ orphanage run by the Christian Brothers. He told the Commissioner ‘It was just abuse from the day you got here’.
At the orphanage, Fin was constantly subjected to abuse at the hands of the Brothers and occasionally his peers. ‘They were real bastards, those blokes. The beatings … emotional abuse, psychological abuse.’ In addition to the abuse, Fin rarely had enough food to eat or adequate clothing to wear, was made to work long hours and received no education.
‘The lack of education was one of my biggest gripes … I was just never educated and I never trusted anybody.’
Sexual abuse of the orphans was common at the home. Fin told the Commissioner ‘They were just perverts, just absolutely fricken perverts. Because I was such a belligerent prick and had such good defence mechanisms, nobody raped me or fucked me. But there was a lot of attempts’. Fin also told the Commissioner about Brother Matthew, who allegedly ‘fucked everybody down there. Probably the pigs as well’.
‘I was a bed-wetter. At one stage there was a system where they glued a machine to the end of your penis with sticky tape, and then it would wake you up in the middle of the night. You’d wake up an hour later and the bloke’s still fondling your dick. Half the time you wouldn’t know what they did while you were asleep anyway.’
On one occasion, Fin ran away from the orphanage but was picked up by the police and returned straight away. Upon his return, Fin was subjected to a public beating in front of the other orphans. His punishment did not end there. Later, in the privacy of one of the Brother’s offices, he was told to ‘drop your strides’ and was further beaten with his pants down.
Occasionally orphans were billeted to families during holiday periods. While Fin was never abused by his host parents, he was subjected to sexual abuse from their children. ‘That was a bit scary, when you’re being brought up in a Catholic orphanage and the daughter has got your pants down and she wants you come hell or high water.’
After leaving the orphanage at 15 years of age, Fin worked hard and eventually built a successful career as a salesman. ‘I always worked harder than anybody else because I always thought, as an orphan, I was a runt … Everybody was bigger, better, smarter, cleverer … I always had to work harder than everybody else, or so I thought.’
Fin believes his strong ‘defence mechanisms’ have provided him with the resilience to cope with his traumatic childhood. ‘For a long time I just got on with it. I remember once about 30 years ago I did burst into tears because of something that I heard on the radio and it just brought everything back.’
Fin was diagnosed with high blood pressure in his early 20s which he suspects is directly related to the stress of growing up in the orphanage. Fin got married at 21 years of age but the relationship did not last. He has been with his current partner for over 30 years and has several adult children, but does not have much contact with them. ‘My relationship with my children is not very good, never has been.’
Fin believes his time at the orphanage provided him with resilience and resourcefulness, but it also hardened him. ‘My missus reckons that I’m a hard bastard. I’m too hard and I’m probably emotionally a bit too tough.’
Now in his early seventies, Fin has only recently felt comfortable discussing the abuse he suffered at the orphanage. Fin received $45,000 compensation from the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program, but has described this experience as entirely negative. ‘I was pissed when I did a bit of research into it, when I discovered that Towards Healing was the name of a company that was formed by those bastards.’ Fin described the Towards Healing counsellors as ‘do-gooders’ who don’t do any good ‘because you can’t fix us. You can’t fix me, you can’t uncynical me, you can’t take the anger out of me’.
‘I despise the Catholic Church and what they’ve done with their abrogation of responsibilities … They’re the cause of half the trouble in the world.’
In spite of his cynicism, Fin believes it is important for survivors to speak about their experiences.
‘I’m intelligent enough to know that if too many people don’t say anything then nothing will get said.’