About a year ago Franky’s older brother, Craig, a man in his 50s, died tragically and suddenly. His family was never sure if it was altogether an accident. ‘I believe he gave up … When my sister phoned me to tell me that Craig had been killed, my first thoughts were “He’s free”.’
Craig’s mental health had deteriorated in the past year and his risk-taking behaviour had risen to a dangerous level. From childhood Craig kept a diary and after his death, Franky read that his brother had been sexually abused in the Salesian Catholic high school where he boarded. The abuse would occur in the infirmary, where Craig was drugged by Jim Sheen, a priest and teacher. Craig had never told anyone and now so many things about his life have started to make sense to those who are deeply mourning his loss.
Franky and Craig grew up in a large, devout Catholic family in the 1960s and 1970s. It was not a happy household as their father was a ‘very angry man and emotional, physical and mental violence was pretty much par for the course’. According to his diary, Craig was too scared to talk about the sexual abuse because he feared their father would kill his abuser.
‘Craig, as a child, was an incredibly gentle soul ... He was definitely not a fighter … He got pushed around at school. He was artistic … a fantastic imagination to write stories and draw pictures of his stories … And he wanted to do good things for people. He was just a lovely kid … Adventurous, I remember he started up a club … They were going to go round town and if they saw anything wrong they’d keep track of it all and go and tell - it’s like his own police cadets club.’
After school, Craig went into an apprenticeship. He started smoking marijuana ‘constantly’. He later moved interstate, travelling around, picking up manual work. At one time, when Franky was 17, he went to visit Craig. He was shocked to discover that his brother was homeless, sometimes sleeping at other people’s places, sometimes under a couple of sheets of corrugated iron in the shabbiest caravan park in town. ‘So lowest of the lowest of the lowest places you could get. He lived there with his two dogs … smoking and drinking all day … and his anger become apparent to me on that trip. He got stuck into me one day and it was ferocious.’
Craig became a good employee at a factory but ‘freaked out’ when asked to take on an additional role, a simple task that as he saw it was ‘beyond his capacity’. Things changed when he met Georgia.
Craig and Georgia enjoyed a long marriage and had a child. Craig got off the dope. ‘[He] becomes a schoolteacher out of the blue and did very well … for a bloke that had never
picked up a computer. And he had a successful career.’ Craig also worked for a scheme that took troubled youth out into the bush. ‘He was apparently very good at that.’
‘So he did that and then … it all regressed’ about 10 months before he died. Craig had a manic episode and was hospitalised. However, he did recover enough to go back to work.
He was again drinking and smoking marijuana. ‘I get the feeling he isolated himself from [Georgia] … She feels bad about it, right, and she shouldn’t.’
Some time prior to that Franky contacted his brother. ‘I started hearing this stuff about [the Catholic order of the school] and I rang him up and I asked him … “Did this happen to you?” “Nah mate, no, no”. Okay. “Are you okay, mate?” “Yeah, course I’m okay. All good”.’
Franky came to the Royal Commission as a representative of his siblings as well as Georgia. In their letters full of sadness and love that Franky read to the Commissioner, they speak about the impacts on both Craig’s life and on their own.
‘[Recently] he asked me what I knew about repressed memories. He said he had begun to recollect … sexual abuse which occurred at his time at [the school] ... His depression, alcohol and marijuana use were all linked to his experience of sexual abuse … The grief and loss at my brother’s death has been enormous. Prior to his death, Craig suffered many episodes of anxiety. Frequently he felt that he wasn’t good enough, lacked confidence and had low self-esteem … [I] will always be pained by the thought of the shocking experiences he had to endure, the consequences of which darkened the rest of his life and led to the tragic end of his life.’
Deborah, Craig’s sister
‘Craig often had nightmares, tossed and turned and sweated a lot throughout the night … He did not enjoy being alone … He could not stand it.’
Georgia, Craig’s partner
‘I recall picking my brother, Craig, from [the school] on the day he left and being quite surprised at the vehemence of his anger and the expletives he shouted out the open car window as we drove away. I regret that I didn’t ever pursue the conversation with him about his treatment at the school because it may have enabled us to get some help for him at a much earlier time, with perhaps a much more positive result.’
Lloyd, Craig’s brother
‘The Craig I knew in childhood changed. I always loved Craig for the deep bond we shared … Something erratic and uncontrolled, like something else had grabbed him … his life force … mood swings … deep-seated anger, when Craig seemed to unleash this dissatisfaction with his life … Where was the Craig I knew? However, it was to Craig’s credit that he kept a diary and … was able to express his feelings and announce, through this, the trauma of his life. I deeply respect him for this. It’s a sign that he really didn’t want to give up.’
Ellen, Craig’s sister