‘For years I tried to forget about it. You go about your life and you just put it behind you. You get into trouble, you get out of trouble, you get married, you get divorced. It’s all part of the picture, but I didn’t realise until I went to a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist just how much it did affect me life. See I was looking back at meself saying, “Oh, you’re not a bright bloke” and part of it’s all got to do with that, so they say.’
At about the age of five Gregg was put in an Anglican boys’ home.
‘It was terrible you know, what can I say? I’m not going to break down but it was absolutely disgusting the things they done to you.’
He and his brothers were often paraded in front of others because their parents didn’t donate money to the Church. Because he wet the bed, Gregg was subjected to further humiliation.
‘Sexual abuse, locked under the cupboards, have to perform fellatio to get out, you know, whipped around the hallway in the nude with a bloke standing there with a cane ... Things I could tell you what happened in there that sound a bit far-fetched, there’s no reason for me to tell lies.’
Punishment was severe and Gregg was ‘petrified’ most of the time. As well as being beaten himself he saw boys thrashed, one so badly that he was ‘out cold on the floor with blood coming out of his nose’.
Gregg was also sexually abused by a married couple on staff who occasionally took him to their home to ‘learn about sex’.
At about the age of 10 in the late 1950s, Gregg was transferred with his brother to another home, this one run by the New South Wales government. ‘Punishment wasn’t as bad but it still happened.’ Here, Gregg was again sexually abused, this time by a man who ‘had some sort of job’ at the home and would take Gregg and a couple of other boys to his holiday house on the coast.
‘He was a paedophile ... I know what it means now. And with them sort of things you can’t, I didn’t discuss it with me brother, I didn’t discuss it with anyone else.’
On one occasion Gregg’s brother had run away and, when he was picked up by police, he reported the sexual abuse to them. He was then returned to the home and severely beaten by staff.
Between the two homes, Gregg and his brother had spent two days in a holding facility in Sydney and during the short time he was there, Gregg ‘was interfered with’.
When he finally left the government home at 18, Gregg was illiterate. He told the Commissioner he later learnt to read and write while in jail for a break and enter offence. It was the only time he’d been in jail as an adult.
He described the ongoing effects of his time in the homes including that he didn’t socialise, had ‘no time for authority’, and had difficulty being close to anyone.
‘I’ve lost two good wives because they’ve both said to me, “You can’t show affection”. It’s not that I don’t love someone, it’s just you can’t show it. I never use the word love because to me it’s just a word.’
He left his first marriage after he noticed himself punishing his children in ways – ‘not sexually’ – that were harsh and reminded him of his own treatment in the homes.
In the early 2010s, Gregg received about $10,000 in compensation from the Anglican Church. Sometime around then he also applied for victims of crime compensation as his brother had successfully done, but was told the law had changed and he needed to have reported his experiences to NSW Police. Reluctance to do so stemmed partly from concern that he might get the names of the offenders wrong and if they were dead, ‘their family finds out he was a paedophile. How would people cope with that?’
Gregg said he didn’t ‘blame the Church for what went on’.
‘It’s how they scrutinised the people that got the jobs and that. You can’t just walk in and become a teacher even if you’ve got qualification. You got to have good backgrounds, so where did them people come from to get to that position where they could end up with kids?’
While it had taken him a long time to talk about the abuse, Gregg was glad he’d done so.
‘I wished years ago I would of discussed this with someone because it may have changed me whole life you know, like no one wants to go and see a psychiatrist; people I knocked around with say, “You’re mad”, you know, “What’s wrong with you?” We don’t, it’s a different attitude today but when I was growing up if I’d of asked for some help and that, had I known it was affecting me life [because] you can ask for help but you don’t know how it’s affected your life till you’ve lived your life.’