Gareth was born in the late 1960s and suffered a number of behavioural and developmental issues as a young child. At about age seven he became too much for his mother to handle on her own, so the two of them moved in with Gareth’s grandmother.
Gareth’s school arranged for him to attend counselling, and the counsellor gave Gareth’s mother a referral for a respite camp that ran on the weekends.
Gareth ended up attending the camp four times. He told the Commissioner, ‘It wasn’t a very nice experience at all. There were no activities. The children were just left – there was a playground at the front of the main facility and that was the main activity’.
Each time Gareth attended the camp he was sexually abused by the camp operator, Mr Walsh. He said the abuse happened in the dormitory early in the morning.
‘He was abusing a girl as well, and he told me to look the other way and then afterwards he abused me.’
Gareth said he didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because he was frightened of his grandmother.
‘My grandmother always spoke about those sort of men were homosexual men … My grandmother was very obstructive in that way.’
In the wake of the abuse Gareth became increasingly fearful of other people, particularly men, and would often cling to his mother for protection. He lost interest in school and his grades suffered. Still, he managed to complete year 12 and later earned two university degrees.
During this time Gareth said he coped by trying to ‘shut out and forget’ the abuse, but he suffered periods of depression.
Then in the late 2000s he sought counselling and after a few sessions the counsellor suggested that he report his abuser to the police. Gareth did so, and eventually Mr Walsh pleaded guilty to four counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to two years jail.
Gareth said he was disappointed with the whole criminal justice process. He described the police as unsupportive and the judge’s sentence as inadequate. He also felt that the $2,000 he received as victims of crime compensation was too little, especially considering how much assistance he’d given to police in their pursuit of Mr Walsh.
Gareth told the Commissioner that Mr Walsh may have been involved with a number of paedophiles who are still offending. He said he is willing to step forward and offer any information that might help catch and convict them.