For many years Hayden felt he wanted to resolve things privately with his abuser, Brother Matthew, so he could protect him from the full impact of the law.
‘I didn’t want the wolves to go after him. And I realised that that is a result of love. If you love someone – if they’re your father, you want to talk to them. The adult thing is you say, “Hey, this is not fair what you did to me”. You always want that.’
Matthew was one of three Catholic Brothers who sexually abused Hayden while he was a student in New South Wales in the 1960s. Hayden’s school was a special school but unlike most of the students there, Hayden did not have a disability. He used to believe that this was why the Brothers singled him out for sexual abuse. He has since discovered that he wasn’t singled out at all and that the Brothers molested dozens of his fellow students, some with disabilities and some without.
The abuse began when Hayden was about 12 and ended two years later because he left the school and got some farm work in Sydney. From there Hayden found his passion in the arts and built a career that lasted until he was about 30. Then the legacy of the abuse caught up with him, striking a sudden blow that affected him emotionally and physically.
‘For two years I couldn’t feel the difference in the temperature outside. I was just burning … I was just so angry all the time. Not acting out – I looked a pillar of strength, I looked healthy and all that, but all this stuff was just burning inside my body.’
During this period Hayden reflected more and more on his time at school and came to realise that the three Brothers had almost certainly picked on him because of his vulnerabilities, and had almost certainly conspired together to facilitate the abuse.
‘I’ve come down out of that childhood fantasy and for the first time I’m starting to see the reality. That, yes, this is a paedophile ring.’
Hayden decided to get help and contacted the Catholic Church. At this stage he had no specific plans and hadn’t thought about monetary compensation at all – he just wanted some guidance and support. What he got was suspicion and antagonism. From the outset the Church representative treated him like an opponent in commerce.
‘He basically said, “Are you aware of the statute of limitations?” And then, “How much do you want?”’
Hayden left and didn’t go back. Instead he opted to meet with the Brothers themselves. He approached the order and met with several representatives over the next four years. The representatives were sympathetic but disorganised. They took no notes and Hayden ended up having to retell his painful story three times to three different men.
Eventually the discussion turned again to money. By this stage Hayden had decided, on the basis of a dream, that $80,000 was an appropriate amount of compensation. The Brothers offered him $20,000. Disgusted, Hayden resolved to do some thinking and return to the Brothers with a properly calculated figure.
‘I thought, “Okay, if they’re going to start down there, I’ll just write down everything I’m entitled to … all the missed opportunities, all the therapy I’ve spent money on, all the things that I’ve done”. It came to about $540,000.’
Negotiations continued until the Brothers offered Hayden $80,000 which he accepted. But that was far from the end of the matter. On a personal level Hayden still has to deal with the ongoing impact of the abuse every day.
‘I feel shame. I feel guilty … I’ve always got, “Am I doing this to myself? Am I wrong?” Even if I work around my house and I go out the back I’m always expecting someone to come say, “Hayden Price, we’ve found you”.’
Meanwhile, Matthew remains free, never having faced justice for the crimes he committed. At the time of Hayden’s session with the Royal Commission, Matthew was living overseas. Hayden is now making plans to report him to police so he can be extradited to Australia before he dies.
‘I’d like him to be brought back here, even if it’s in an intensive care ambulance.’