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Gary John's story

Gary wasn’t sure whether he should come to the Royal Commission. ‘I sort of was apprehensive about even bothering to pursue this line’, he said. ‘I’d waste your time on a low-level abuse case.’ But a few words from his brother convinced him that ‘I maybe should just get it out into the air’.

It was the early 1980s when Gary arrived for his first year of high school at a Uniting Church boarding school in Victoria. There he encountered headmaster Maurice Lawson, a ‘pretty decent bloke’ who played the role of ‘father figure’ at the school.

Gary enjoyed his time at the school and got along well with Lawson until the day when Lawson ‘made me show him my genitals in the shower’. Gary wasn’t the only one. Under the guise of ‘helping us maintain our personal hygiene’, Lawson ‘perved’ on many of the boys.

One time he changed tack and exposed himself to Gary and some other boys. Again, he tried to disguise his behaviour, this time inviting the boys to look at his surgery scar while his penis happened to be hanging out of his clothes.

Gary endured Lawson’s behaviour for a couple of years before he was expelled for a minor infringement. He finished Year 12 at a local public school then started a career that seemed promising at first but turned out to be a dead end.

From there Gary did a series of odd jobs for some years before sinking into a long period of unemployment. He put on a lot of weight and was diagnosed with depression.

For most of his life Gary dismissed the idea that any of these troubles came as a consequence of Mr Lawson’s behaviour. In fact, if Gary had to trace his troubles back to one key moment he’d nominate the moment when he got expelled.

‘I sort of gave up a bit on life when I got expelled’, he said. ‘I thought I’d blown my big opportunity.’ Because of the expulsion he didn’t work very hard in his last years of high school, which meant that he didn’t get to enjoy the further study and career that he’d hoped for.

Recently, however, Gary has realised that one of the factors that led to his expulsion and poor school performance was his disrespect for authority, and that is something that definitely came as a result of Lawson’s actions.

‘Without getting philosophical or anything, but maybe it started the way I sort of questioned authority as I grew up. Because I thought, if that’s what’s going on behind authority, this sort of weirdness, well what’s going on?’

Gary first spoke about the abuse a few years ago when he disclosed it to his family. They were supportive and encouraged him to get it out in the open. Since then Gary has managed to get a better handle on his life. He changed his diet, did more exercise and lost a lot of weight. He also started a new job. It’s a big achievement but Gary doesn’t like to go on about it.

‘I’m just a normal person who’s been exposed to a little bit of shit as a youth. I just keep my feet on the ground.’

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