Harvie's story

Harvie grew up in an inner city suburb of Sydney in the 1960s and '70s. ‘At the time I was living with my, I call him my “foster dad”. He’s my great-uncle Matt. He’s a great man, best man I ever met. My mother left when I would have been about two-and-a-half. My dad was an alcoholic, and so he went by the wayside … My foster dad was on shift work. So I was left to my own devices.’

Harvie was a good student. ‘I was always up there top of the mark, best mathematics in the school, that sort of stuff. It was something I could get into. And sports, I loved sports.’ Harvie also attended the local Catholic school for confirmation lessons, where the parish priest, Father MacDowell, took an interest in him. Since Harvie’s parents were absent and his foster father was rarely around, Harvie welcomed the attention he received.

‘I had no father figure or mother figure in my home. Even my great-uncle, my foster dad, he was working shift work. No one was ever around. And someone took an interest in me. It was good to have someone take an interest in me, initially.’

Harvie was eight when MacDowell began molesting him. He would give Harvie money before touching him inappropriately, and because Harvie came from a poor background the money was welcomed. Even though he knew it was wrong, he continued to allow MacDowell to abuse him in exchange for money.

‘It’s hard to talk about because I blame myself a lot for it … ‘Shame, you know. Very hard to talk about this sort of stuff. I never told my foster dad. He’s 85. He’s still on his own, single man. I never told him because if I had told him when I was young, he would have basically killed the priest.’

Harvie disclosed the abuse to a teacher at the Catholic school. He doesn’t know what she did with the information; she later moved to a different school.

After MacDowell left the parish, Harvie was still without any parental supervision or support. He started visiting the other priests in the presbytery, who gave him money in exchange for sexual favours until he was about 12. ‘That’s the hardest thing, ‘cause I think “Did I initiate it?” All those questions come into it …

‘I did at the time feel helpless. And hopeless too. Hopelessness was there, too.’

Although Harvie did well in primary school, everything changed when he reached high school.

‘I started using drugs to cope, I think … I got to high school and maybe it was puberty, I don’t know. But I went haywire and I started using heroin of all things. I never smoked cigarettes, it was all or nothing. Started using heroin and it made me numb …

‘I sat in the street with a few boys who were a bit older than me and just sort of to fit in, I mean. Up at Kings Cross, we lived in a house in Kings Cross – 13, 14 years of age, you know. They were a bit more rough too, and that was good, because I thought, “Well, they can protect me”. That’s the way I looked at things.

'They were rougher boys and they were doing things wrong. And I knew they were wrong … Using the drugs made me just cope with that sort of existence.’

Eventually Harvie’s lifestyle led to trouble with the police and to juvenile detention. ‘Dealt with it my way … I done a few things like pelted the church a couple of times with eggs and that, sort of being rebellious. That was my way of dealing with things. Smashed a window once or twice too. You know, just little things.’

Harvie has had trouble with drug addiction for much of his life and is currently in prison. He still regards his foster father very highly and regrets disappointing him.

‘He’s a real good man, you know. And a couple of times I was close to talking to him about it but I didn’t wanna give him an extra burden. He thinks he failed now because of the way I’ve turned out. But I say to him, “Now everyone says I’m a good person, it’s just that I go back on the drugs and I become an arsehole”.’

Harvie has never sought compensation or formally disclosed the abuse he suffered. He has received therapy in jail but finds it hard to confide in his counsellors because they inevitably move on before trust can be established.

Harvie has children from a past relationship, and even though their mother has left him he regards his children as the ‘greatest job in my life’, motivating him to rehabilitate so he can be present in their lives when he is released.

‘There’s bigger fish to fry. To be with my children … I just want to be there. All the things I missed out on where I didn’t deal with things properly and now I can. And just to be there … Second half of your life.’

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