As a youngster growing up in Queensland in the 1960s, Gerard was ‘happy-go-lucky. Loved school. I was always at school first one in the morning. We’d either play cricket before school, touch football, whatever’. He attended a convent school until Grade 4, and then a college run by the Marist Brothers, until the end of Grade 8.
The nuns at the convent school, ‘were quite brutal with their corporal punishment … If I was to treat my child today the way I was treated … I’d be in jail. The nuns could be very cruel’.
The head nun would flog Gerard, and then hug him and fondle his genitals. ‘Nuns and priests take their vows of no sex. As I get older, and reflect … their vows of chastity are a little bit hard for them to deal with … I’m by no means saying that all of them were terrible.’
The headmaster of the junior college was ‘vicious. When he caned you, the blood blisters that were on my hands were incredible. Dad wanted to knock him out, but you can’t do that, so you’ve just got to deal with it … When he was giving the cane he … had an erection under his frock. He’d be rubbing himself while he’s marching up and down, laying the law down … about my misbehaviour’.
Gerard was bullied at school, and his parish priest taught him how to cope. ‘[He] was my first boxing trainer … He had to put up with similar bullying at school and he said, “This is how you deal with it, boy”, so there’s the violence in life. The violence the teachers were instilling in me for my insignificant naughtiness, when I thought I was only sticking up for myself. It was ingrained in you not to be a dobber.’
When he was at the senior college, Gerard attended a school camp. ‘One night, Brother Mervyn come in and got into bed with me.’ The Brother began touching Gerard on his genitals, then ‘all he did was cry, hug me and cry’.
Gerard was an altar boy at the local church when he was 10 or 11, and had thoughts of becoming a priest. ‘Supposedly the alcohol, the wine was sacramental wine, in that you don’t get drunk on it but … this wine we were given, I was pretty sure I was tipsy.’
He told the Commissioner, ‘You have to go through the ceremony to put your robes on … It was during the changing the clothes … that’s when [Father Edwin] started to touch.’
The priest played ‘oral sex games’ with him. They would put on each other’s clothes, and then he would force Gerard to perform oral sex on him.
When Gerard told Father Robert in confession about what Father Edwin was doing, the priest said, ‘We all make mistakes. You have to forgive people because if you carry on, it’s detrimental to both of you’. Father Robert cried and told Gerard that it wasn’t his fault, but did nothing about the abuse.
Gerard also told his father about the abuse. His father spoke to a friend who was a police officer. The friend advised them not to try and take on the Catholic Church in court, because it was difficult to fight such a huge, wealthy institution.
‘He said, “You’ve got to forgive, get on with life, but be more aware”. It was fire and brimstone … Homosexuals and kiddie-touchers were [an abomination], but then the ones that are preaching to you about this stuff are closet homosexual paedophiles themselves, and I can’t say all of them, but once the complaint came in, they just closed their ranks.’
Father Edwin was moved from parish to parish each time he was caught sexually abusing children. Eventually he was charged with offences against other boys, and went to jail.
‘When I saw … that Father Edwin had been charged for being an animal, I felt relief that someone had done it … All of a sudden, something that couldn’t happen, had happened … It wasn’t my case, but he has been ferreted out or acknowledged for what shit he’s done.’
Gerard began getting into trouble as a young teenager and spent time in two juvenile detention centres. As he was released from one centre, the officer on duty told him, ‘If you come back, you’re fucked’. When Gerard returned to the centre, the officer raped him. ‘It wasn’t a nice place for kids to be.’
During his late teens and early 20s, Gerard turned to alcohol and drugs. He ended up in jail for ‘alcohol violence, stealing, petty theft’, but he has not been in trouble for over 15 years.
Gerard is now on a disability pension after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disturbance and chronic anxiety. ‘I’ve just been diagnosed with ADHD … so all those years when I was in the institutions, the so-called child psychologists, welfare officers, whatever, why didn’t they pick up on it?’
He told the Commissioner, ‘When I saw on TV about what’s going on in the Northern Territory … I was a blithering … like on the verge of a breakdown … from seeing the shit that went on 40 years ago is still going on’.
Although he has ‘come very close’ to taking his own life, Gerard has thought of all the things he would have missed out on over the years if he had gone through with it.
‘I would have missed out on this recognition. This is … I have to say, thank you very much. This has been a long time to sit down with someone who’s willing to listen and has the power to actually do something … There are that many issues that I’ve had in my life, and today’s the day that I get to speak.’