Frank Douglas's story

Frank has a developmental disorder that makes social interaction difficult. ‘At school, I had no idea how to relate to other kids.’

In the early 1980s, Frank received an academic scholarship to a private school in regional Queensland, but he was expelled for a prank he played after a teacher annoyed him. He was then sent to a state high school, but didn’t attend very often.

‘I ended up getting myself a job and unfortunately the law states that you’ve got to stay at school until you’re 15 and I was only 14, so I was removed from gainful employment and sent to a boys’ home.’

After being removed from the boys’ home because he’d started a food fight that couldn’t be controlled, Frank was sent to a home run by the De La Salle Brothers.

‘My first recollections are of … [the] head honcho of the lads in the cottage … I suppose my lack of relating to people led to him getting quite annoyed with me. They organised a bashing for me.’

Frank heard the boys coming towards his bed and, being small, slid down between the bed and the wall. In the dark, the boys couldn’t see, and while Frank ‘made all the noises like I was being bashed … they happily thumped each other’. Neither of the cottage parents bothered to come and investigate all the noise.

Frank told the Commissioner that he experienced physical, emotional and sexual abuse during his two years at the home. Brothers carried large straps and often beat the boys, and one would hit the boys with his stockwhip. Frank was raped by one of his teachers, and several days later, the same man was caught raping another student.

‘The next day at assembly, [the Brother in charge] informed everybody that [the teacher] had been removed from the premises for inappropriate behaviour. It wasn’t handed over to the police. He was removed from the premises.’

Frank believes that if the teacher hadn’t left the boys’ home, he probably would have been abused again. There was a rumour among the boys that this teacher had been the lover of a Brother who had left the boys’ home after suffering a serious injury. If the rumour was true then the teacher may have ‘started transgressing on the lads, once [the Brother] had left’.

Frank didn’t tell anybody about his sexual abuse. ‘Up until [the boys’ home], any time I’d had an approach from one of those grubs, I’d gone and told my mother about it.’ In the boys’ home, though: ‘I don’t know who I can or can’t talk to. There’s just no … I don’t have my mum there. So afterwards, I went to a hayshed and cried myself silly … and I never, ever uttered a word to anyone.’

Because he hid in the hayshed all night, Frank ‘got belted absolutely senseless for disappearing like that’. No one asked him why he’d gone missing.

‘I never, ever, ever went anywhere in [the boys’ home] again on my own. The one and only time I was on my own, and [a Brother] came into the cottage, I lay down in the foyer area … and played unconscious … It ended up with me going to hospital for observation.’

Frank began to show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder in the 1980s and his mental health has deteriorated in the last few years. He suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks and can no longer work.

‘I no longer go out to shopping centres on my own … I don’t go to the footy club anymore. I sit at home. I deal with the anxiety by drinking. I drink quite a bit.’

Frank reported his abuser to the police, but he believes that someone altered the dates on the records to show that the teacher was not at the boys’ home when he was there. He is confident that others may have the evidence he needs to show that the teacher was there on the day he was sexually abused.

Because of the conflicting dates, a claim Frank was making for compensation fell through. This did not concern Frank because, ‘I wanted to see [him] behind bars. I wasn’t after compensation. I didn’t want their dirty 30 pieces of silver.’ The teacher has now been charged with sexual offences against other boys.

Frank told the Commissioner, ‘I’m sincerely hoping through this today that it’ll be investigated somewhat further and we may have an outcome out of it. That’s what I was hoping for. I never want to see this happen to another child again. Never, ever’.

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