Gareth grew up in rural New South Wales and attended the local state high school in the late 1960s.
During his first six months at the school, Gareth was sexually abused by his sports coach, Fred Walker. ‘He’d give me a lift home. I just lived around the corner from the high school. I walked to and from school every day, but you know, after … training, he’d say, “Oh, would you give me a hand with the equipment today and we’ll pack it up and take it back”.’
After they put the equipment away, Walker would take Gareth into his office. ‘He’d sit me on his knee and he’d just fondle me.’
At the age of 13, Gareth had no sex education, and didn’t know how to put into words what was happening.
He couldn’t tell anyone about the sexual abuse because, ‘I had nowhere to go. Didn’t want to tell anyone. Didn’t know who to tell or how to tell or what to do. I just quit [sport]. I just didn’t go’.
Gareth told his parents he’d prefer going swimming.
Once Gareth discontinued training, the abuse stopped and not long after, Walker left town.
Although the sexual abuse wasn’t talked about amongst the boys at his school, Gareth believes that he wasn’t Walker’s only victim. ‘It wasn’t public knowledge what he was doing. I think there was one other person that I think, that I know of … He lived down the bottom of my street … I think he was [abused] in the same way. I think we had a bit of a conversation about it one day … I don’t know full recollection of that …’
Although the sexual abuse had little impact on Gareth’s education and he found school easy, when he went to university he couldn’t knuckle down. ‘Too much alcohol. Too much … playing footie … Nah. Didn’t knuckle down to it.’ Because of his low grades, the university asked him to take some time off, but after having completed only six months, Gareth dropped out.
Gareth believes that the abuse may have impacted on his personality by causing him to be a bit shy in his younger days. ‘I was probably a bit insular for a while … I was, yeah … I was never out there I suppose. But I changed. I just put it behind me.’
Although he does not believe that the impacts of the sexual abuse have been major for him, Gareth told the Commissioner that he does have ‘anger management issues’.
Gareth has rarely spoken to anyone about the sexual abuse he experienced as a child. ‘I haven’t told my current wife … [She] now knows I’m not very tolerant of … I’m homophobic and hate paedophiles.’ He doesn’t want to report the abuse to the police, or talk to a psychologist, because he feels he doesn’t ‘need to relive it all now. I’ve put it behind me’.
When Gareth attended a school reunion in the 1990s, there was some discussion about Walker and someone told Gareth that they thought that Walker had died. ‘I hope it’s true … The consequences wouldn’t be good if I saw him … We’d both be in trouble.’