Gordon Matthew's story

Gordon nearly didn’t make it to the Royal Commission. He has terminal cancer, first diagnosed in the 1970s when he was a teenager. At that time his doctor asked him if he had suffered any stress. Gordon didn’t give any details but his answer was ‘Yes’.

As a kid, Gordon was sent to live with his grandmother after his father was hospitalised due to a nervous breakdown. Gordon recalls visits to his father where he spoke to him through a wire fence. ‘He wasn’t well at all. He was in a daze.’

His grandmother was a ‘full-on Christian’ and Gordon went to church morning and night. He was also sent to the primary school that the local Catholic church ran.

There he encountered Brother Ryan, who was a sadist. Ryan would belt the kids and Gordon was often strapped, sometimes with his pants down. One time, Gordon refused to take his pants down and Ryan smashed Gordon’s face into the wall, breaking his nose.

When Gordon was about 10 years old, he ran away from his grandmother’s place because of all the beatings at school. He came from a large family and his mother had no help. She decided to send Gordon and his brothers to an army camp. The brothers learned it was actually a boys’ home and decided they would ‘leg it’ as soon as they got off the train.

Those plans were dashed, however, when they saw their local priest, Father McCarthy, was there to meet them off the train. McCarthy took them on a fishing trip for several days.

During that trip McCarthy made Gordon share a bed with him. He sexually abused Gordon on a number of occasions, sometimes causing him to bleed. Gordon remembers one time going to bed feeling ‘woozy’.

‘It was to get the devil out of me. He [McCarthy] said the family didn’t want us because we weren’t in God’s hands. We were just rubbish that people didn’t want.’

Gordon didn’t talk about it with his brothers. At some point after that trip he went back to live with the rest of his family. He didn’t tell them about the abuse either. ‘They all thought Father McCarthy was this great guy. All my family, my … aunties, everyone, thought he was wonderful …

‘I went pretty bad after all that. Wrong people. Motorbike gangs. Drugs. And attempted suicide a couple of times.’ His mother asked him what was wrong but Gordon didn’t disclose. ‘I didn’t want to break her heart. She thought Father McCarthy, she thought the sun shined out of him. And she wouldn’t have believed me.’

In his 20s Gordon went to a counsellor but didn’t give the full story, only that he had been abused as a child. He didn’t find the counselling helpful.

Gordon talked about it with one of his brothers only a couple of years ago. His brother recalled McCarthy and said ‘The guy’s definitely a deviant’.

Very recently, Gordon contacted the head of the church McCarthy belonged to and told him he had been abused. ‘The response I got was “Father McCarthy was a man of great character and he would not do any such thing”.’

Gordon no longer has any treatment options for his cancer. He told the Commissioner ‘I just wanted to get it out before I passed away’. He knows what’s done is done and reflected ‘I haven’t had a life really’.

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