Finlay grew up in suburban Melbourne, with his mother and older brother, Trent. Trent sexually abused Finlay when he was five years old, molesting him in the bath every day for a week. At some stage a number of adult brothers joined them living in their government flat. Finlay’s mum said these brothers had come home from an orphanage, and he remembers they were all quite aggressive. They sat around drinking and smoking marijuana all day, and had sex with girls in front of Finlay. Not being able to cope with this situation, his mother would lock herself in her room.
Finlay was taken into care at 10. He had been truanting from school, stealing to buy food as they were always very poor, and the police caught up with him. Welfare came and interviewed his mother, and took photos of their home, then removed him. After a week in a reception centre, he was sent to a Christian Brothers orphanage in regional Victoria, ‘a big, scary-looking place’.
Brother Marcus, who was in charge of the home, sexually abused Finlay on his second day there. Finlay had been taken to Marcus’s office, and sat on his knee. The Brother had an erection and forcibly tried to sit Finlay on it, but Finlay pushed him away. There were other kids in the office, and Finlay saw Marcus doing the same thing with them.
‘The next day, they done it again to me, they took me to his office. And same thing, went and sat on his knee’. Again, Finlay objected. It was common knowledge, at least amongst the children, that Marcus behaved this way. Finlay did not experience further abuse from Marcus, but was twice sexually abused by boys around his age.
There was a lot of physical abuse at the home. At one stage Finlay lived in a dormitory run by a Mrs Whistler. He was tasked with heating the milk for the younger boys, and if he let it boil over she would strip him naked and whip him until he fell to the ground. This would happen at least once or twice a week. In another dormitory, Brother Norbert would beat him with a thick leather strap, on his bare buttocks and legs.
Finlay was also locked in the bell tower, in the dark, several times by Brother Jerome. He would be left there for a couple of days each time, with only a bucket and a toilet roll. He ran away from the home five times, always being stripped and flogged upon being returned by police.
When he was 15 years old, he was finally able to leave the home. He lived in a hostel for a year, and then with one of his brothers. Having sniffed glue from the age of 13, he then began using cannabis and heroin, and ‘any drug that was there’. He stole to support his drug habit, and also for excitement, and spent many years in jail.
At the age of 30 Finlay became a Christian, and his life turned around for a while. Through the church he attended he gave motivational talks, speaking in prisons and schools. He got married and had another child (having had his first daughter in a previous relationship), and contributed to community activities. However, he still became stressed and angry a lot, and ended up in prison again. His wife formed another relationship during this time, with a man who molested their child.
Finlay has experienced a lot of mental health issues, including depression and suicidal ideation. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and lives with constant fear and paranoia. At one point, he did not want to leave home for a couple of years. He has not been in jail for a few years now, and is trying to overcome his cannabis addiction.
Around 15 years ago, Finlay became aware of a class action being taken against the home. He joined this claim, and received $10,000. This amount seemed okay at the time (‘we had nothing’), but he now describes it as ‘like getting kicked in the face 100 times over’. He has since engaged a lawyer to take further legal action on his behalf.
Finlay attributes his resilience to his faith and his children. ‘Jesus kept me alive … I have a strong faith in God because he’s saved me so many times, he’s got me through everything. Apart from that, my children, obviously. If I didn’t have my two daughters, I probably would have committed suicide a long time ago. I’ve been suicidal for years, and it can just come on in a second’.
Overall, Finlay remains positive about the future. He has had some counselling over the years, and tries to exercise and eat well. ‘My life’s just beginning really. I’m only just becoming a man … And I know these tears are going to dry up, the tears are going to go – I’m going to have laughter.’