Geoff’s mother enrolled him at a Patrician Brothers school in Sydney in the late 1970s, when he was 10 years old. ‘She paid good money to send us to a school that she thought was safe’, Geoff said. ‘My father was against it but my mother was all for it. Just doing what she thought was best.’
Geoff was abused by two perpetrators during his six years at the school. The first was a teacher, Brother Osbourne. The Brother was in charge of the sports uniforms and equipment, so every boy had to pop in and see him at some point.
Geoff was about 11 when he first wandered into Brother Osbourne’s storeroom to try on some clothes. Under the guise of helping Geoff with a ‘fitting’, Osbourne put his hand down Geoff’s pants and groped him.
Geoff left the room, terrified, knowing that he never wanted to go back – but also knowing that he had to get his sports gear from somewhere. After some thinking he decided to visit the second-hand supply room that was run by a classmate’s mother. She was kind to Geoff and helped him find all the things he needed. From then on, Geoff always got his gear from the second-hand storeroom. He never went back to Osbourne’s room and was never abused by the Brother again.
However, Geoff did tell the Commission about a separate incident involving Osbourne, this time at a school camp. Osbourne had a habit of watching the boys in the showers. The boys thought this was funny so one night a group of them started imitating the Brother, repeating his catchphrase: ‘don’t be ashamed of your penis’. Brother Osbourne overheard this and dragged the boys out of their tents, flogged them and threatened them with expulsion if they ever did anything like it again.
As far as Geoff knows, Osbourne wasn’t reported to any authorities and he stayed at the school for a few more years before he was ‘moved on’.
During this time, Geoff endured his daily dose of physical abuse dished out by the Brothers, but was free from sexual abuse. Then at about age 13 he went away on a trip to Melbourne. The trip was led by a teacher named Mr Tyler who arranged for Geoff and three other boys to stay with him in a unit in the city.
‘Tyler was the one who did the most damage’ Geoff said. At the unit Tyler sexually abused Geoff in a way that was ‘definitely’ more serious than what Osbourne had done. Tyler abused the other boys too.
‘He wanted me to sleep in the room with him on a mattress on the floor, and I said “No, I’m going to sleep on the lounge”. Now, after what happened to me, I can only imagine what happened in the bedroom, because the other kids slept in that room with him. So he got to them in that room. We never talked about it so I don’t know what happened to them.’
When Geoff got back from Melbourne ‘the principal actually approached me: “Did anything happen?” And I denied it’.
A few weeks later there was a call on Geoff’s mum’s answering machine. It was Mr Tyler. ‘He actually rang up. We don’t know why he phoned up, probably guilty conscience.’ Some days later Geoff heard that Mr Tyler had killed himself.
Geoff didn’t mention the abuse to anyone until his twenties when he told his mum. She was appalled. They never spoke about it again. Geoff went on to discuss the abuse with several counsellors and some lawyers. He’s recently joined with some of his old classmates in a civil case against the school, hoping to get some redress for the long-term harm caused by the abuse.
‘I actually blame what happened to me at school for my mental health. Paranoid schizophrenia, they’ve diagnosed me. With psychotic tendencies … I believe it’s because of the trauma I’ve been carrying.’