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Goran's story

When he arrived in Australia in the early 1960s with his mother from Eastern Europe, Goran was sent to a Catholic residential care facility in Queensland. He was about 14.

He was sent on the advice of a government official who had assured Goran’s mother, long separated from her husband, that it was normal procedure while she got herself settled.

In the nearly 12 months Goran spent there he was ‘flogged’, strapped in the face or legs by nuns for smiling or laughing in class, made to clean his teeth with soda instead of toothpaste, woken at 4am for early mass, not given a jumper in winter, and often went hungry because there was not enough food.

He asked to be moved away from the noise emanating from the room of the dormitory supervisor, Tony Cresswell, who he could hear molesting children in his nearby bed. Goran was then banished to an open verandah where he slept with inadequate blankets in winter and sweltered with mosquitoes in the summer months in the early 1960s.

Cresswell called Goran a ‘wog’ and repeatedly slapped him in the ear which resulted in permanent ear drum damage.

Goran was sexually abused while in the care of the facility by two men who volunteered to take children on day trips organised by the nuns. On those trips the men would indecently touch him and put their ‘grubby hands’ between the legs of the children, Goran said in documents before the Royal Commission. During at least two of those trips he was alone with the men.

‘They said, “Let’s get friendly. We’re here to help you and welcome new Australians in here,” and all that. And … all very sickening … groping on the penis and stuff like that.’

‘It happened a couple of times until I said I don’t really want to go any more,’ Goran said. He fended off the nuns with excuses that he wasn’t feeling well, or ‘didn’t like travelling long distances’.

When he convinced his mother to remove him before a year was up, they moved and the church recommended a school.

‘I didn’t really like it out there because I ended up getting molested in the swimming pool up there, too. So I’m really hurt about it all.’

Goran said one of the ‘oldest kids’ at the school had tried to molest him and when he refused to go to swimming lessons afterwards he was ‘flogged’. He found himself in a ‘no-win situation’ when asked why he wouldn’t go swimming. ‘I couldn’t tell ’em, because I would end up getting flogged. So, I ended up getting the flogging anyway.’

Goran couldn’t talk about any of the abuse then, because he would have been beaten, and he can’t talk about it in detail now.

‘I find it very offensive,’ he said. It has haunted him ever since.

‘I felt a very negative approach to people that I meet, especially if they touch me … It sort of stopped me from getting married and other stuff because I would never want my kids to happen to the same thing.’

It’s made him depressed, traumatised and enraged that the Catholic Church cannot be held accountable for the actions of its own. It also affected his relationship with his mother, whom he blamed for a long time before realising it was not her fault.

‘What happened there set the wrong precedent for the way I felt about this country for a long time. I thought all Australians were the same. They abuse people, they bash ‘em up, they call you ‘wogs’ … and it took a really long time [to realise] not everybody’s the same.’

While living at the residential care facility Goran wrote an anonymous letter warning what was happening. He also disclosed the abuse he suffered to several friends as an adult.

However, he has not reported the abuse to police. Nor has he had a single long-term relationship.

When he applied for redress from the Queensland Government he received what he recalls was around $10,000 in several instalments, but complains it was little in comparison to payments by other states.

He is scornful of the Church and says it is lucky he still believes in God or ‘most of them would be dead’.

‘An injustice has been done and nobody corrected it … Why wasn’t the Catholic Church responsible for anybody? Why couldn’t they’ve said sorry and compensate instead of throw all their assets overseas and pretend nothing happened?’

Now in his sixties, Goran has never had counselling and the ‘last thing’ he wants to do is talk about it to a GP.

‘It’s personal. I can’t discuss stuff like that with anybody … I would not discuss with someone who is 20, 30, 40 years younger than me. You’re just not on the same wavelength … no disrespect … I’m not comfortable with it.’

Currently Goran’s wellbeing is ‘not very good’. The abuse has ‘stopped me from getting into relationships’ directly because of ‘bloody interference’.

He is so angry he wants to ‘hang ‘em all’. ‘The Church has got to be responsible. If I am running a business, I am accountable for the business ... People who have been sexually abused by someone in the Catholic Church need to be paid up and that they get psychological, mental and other physical help that they are entitled to’, Goran believes.

‘That’s what a business looking after its employees would do. We are the customers in that organisation … or the clients and we were damaged. They have to repair the damage. It’s as simple as that.’

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