In the early 1970s, Hal was sent to a Church of England boys’ home.
He was 11 years old at the time, the oldest of six children. His mother was struggling to manage. Hal’s nine-year-old brother Jim was sent with him to the home, about 40 minutes away from where the family lived in New South Wales.
It was tough there, Hal told the Commissioner, but the boys weren’t unhappy. ‘It was just like going on a camp, that’s how we saw it’, he said.
Eventually, however, the boys came under the supervision of a volunteer at the home, Martin Jackson. It was Jackson’s job to take boys out on day trips at the weekend. Hal and Jim were sent out with Jackson on bush walks in a nearby national park every second weekend.
These outings became an opportunity for Jackson to sexually abuse the boys, Hal told the Commissioner.
Jackson told the boys they were not to tell anyone what was happening. If they did they wouldn’t be able to see their mother again.
Nonetheless, Hal did try to tell someone about it. He approached the housemaster at the home. He was only part-way through reporting the incident when the housemaster told him to stop.
‘He wouldn’t listen’, Hal said. ‘Just marched me into his office, took his belt off and started flogging me.’
‘It was a severe flogging’, he said.
The boys continued to be sent on outings with Jackson for the reminder of their time at the home, and the sexual abuse continued. ‘I was just an 11-year-old kid. We was told to go out with him, that was it’, Hal told the Commissioner.
After a year, the boys were able to return to their family. At that point, Hal told his grandfather what had been happening.
‘I said to my grandfather, “Are we going back to that home?” He says “No, you’re home for good now.” I said “Well – something’s been going on.”’
Hal’s grandfather took him to the police and they reported the matter. The police followed up and two weeks later let the family know that Jackson had confessed to the sexual abuse. Four months later, Jackson hung himself in jail.
Hal said his mother always blamed herself for what had happened. ‘I told her it wasn’t her fault.’ He felt his whole life had been affected, and his brother Jim’s even more so. ‘He was in worse condition than what I was’, Hal told the Commissioner. ‘He just can’t cope with life.’
After telling his grandfather and mother about the abuse, and talking about it with Jim, Hal told no one else for many years. ‘I just don’t trust anyone. Never have. I just don’t trust people, because of what happened.’
His first wife never knew about it. Nor did his children, until very recently, when he also told his second wife.
Prompted by Jim, several years ago Hal got in touch with a support service. Through that agency he was able to make a claim for compensation, and eventually he received $100,000 from Anglicare. He also received a formal apology, and has been promised one from the Bishop in person.
It all helps, but doesn’t replace what was lost.
‘We lost our childhood. It was stolen from us. We had no choice. You know, what price do you put on a child? You can’t put a price on it. No amount of money will pay for what they’ve done’, Hal said.
‘I just hope the Commission achieves what it’s setting out to do. To protect children, and prevent this from happening again.’