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Hugo Scott's story

Hugo remembers his brother, Donald, as a ‘natural born teacher. He was always very positive … looking for ways to do things better’. Hugo came to the Commission to speak on his deceased brother’s behalf.

Hugo and Donald grew up in Queensland in the 1950s and 1960s. It was an unhappy household as their parents argued. Donald was sick as a child and spent a lot of time indoors.

They weren’t Catholic but were friends with a neighbouring family that were. When Donald was about 14 or 15 he was invited by one of the boys from that family, Keith, to go with him on a camping weekend with two other boys from Keith’s school and a teacher, Father Dean Walsh.

As Hugo described in a written statement he provided to the Commissioner, Donald was raped by Father Walsh one night in the tent.

‘After the assault Donald got up and went out of the tent with his sleeping bag, cleaned himself up, returned … and wept until dawn.’

The next morning nothing was said and Donald made no mention of the abuse to anyone, including Keith.

Donald went on to become a successful school teacher. He married and had a family. Hugo says in his statement, ‘They were a very happy, active family and myself, being a divorced man … admired his relationship with his family. On reflection I did notice that Donald was prone to drink heavily …’

By the time Donald was in his mid-40s his drinking had become a problem. He was ‘hiding bottles around the house; becoming aloof from the family and sometimes resorting to shouting and erratic behaviour; being late for school; becoming “teary”; unable to discuss the source of his unhappiness and clearly showing signs of depression’.


Hugo and Julia, Donald’s wife, ‘were at a loss to know how to help him’. They did manage to get him into treatment for drug and alcohol addiction, but this was ultimately unsuccessful. During one of the sessions with a psychiatrist there, however, Donald disclosed his childhood sexual abuse. But he still didn’t acknowledge, at this stage, the effect the abuse had had on his life.

Donald started to mention suicide. He was caught drinking in school hours. He took long-term sick leave and then an early retirement. At home he would sometimes collapse, sobbing. ‘Throughout these years, the stress on the family was overbearing. Julia was severely stressed as were the [children] and they were receiving counselling from a psychologist on how to cope with Donald’s erratic behaviour.’

Donald was encouraged to approach Towards Healing. He was offered compensation of $5,000 which he was not satisfied with. He put together a counter claim, which included loss of income, but this was denied. He accepted their offer. He thought the representatives that he met from the Catholic order were ‘cynical and sneering of him and his claim, doubting his story’. They told him Father Walsh had died. It was around this time that Julia read the psychologist’s report on her husband’s child sexual abuse.

Hugo tried to convey to the Commissioner the character of his brother. ‘The thing about Donald was, when he was going through this and they told him [Father Walsh] had passed away, he said that he wouldn’t pursue it, you know, he wouldn’t say anything to upset Walsh’s family.’

After a short time sober, Donald relapsed – often triggered by reports of child sexual abuse in the press. By now he was around 50. Because he kept drinking his marriage ended, which ‘broke Julia’s heart’. With his retirement package Donald bought a caravan and lived in a caravan park. He lost regular contact with his own family but Hugo and his friends saw him more frequently.

His health rapidly declined. He was on sickness benefits. In recent years he again attempted treatment but this was unsuccessful. He died in his caravan from alcohol-related conditions.

Hugo believes Donald would be proud of his children, now adults, and how well they are all doing.

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