Irene described herself throughout her childhood and into her teen years, as ‘demanding and socially inept’.
‘My mother wasn’t an easy person to deal with and growing up in the Anglican Church, I relied on that community to provide solace and stability.’
Irene told the Commissioner she battled an ‘unpleasant’ time in high school through the early 1970s, and at about the age of 15 years, sought counselling and support from Reverend Mallard.
She’d met him through the Girls Friendly Society.
‘Somehow I found out where he worked and went there and said I wanted to talk to him about something. He picked me up from school and we went to the beach, and he masturbated and touched me on the breast. I don’t think I saw him after that.’
Although Irene couldn’t recall seeing Mallard again, about two years later she experienced further sexual abuse by another Anglican Minister, after she’d begun going to youth-oriented services at an Adelaide church at 16.
‘I wanted to talk to someone about what happened with Reverend Mallard, so I went to Reverend Walters and he asked me to see him at his home during the day. When I got there he asked me to massage his shoulders, and during the process he undressed himself and masturbated. I remember him ejaculating, and going into the bedroom to get a handkerchief. He said we had to be careful because he had a cleaner coming in.’
At 19, Irene married, but the marriage lasted only a couple of years.
‘I left home at 16 and in my 20s I went through alcohol abuse, and a couple of suicide attempts.’
In the mid-1990s, Irene decided to report both abusers to the bishop. She said she then attended a meeting with Reverend Mallard at the bishop’s private residence.
‘It was really hard, no supports. I just did what I was told, I was very compliant. Mallard said “Yes it happened”, but said he didn’t realise the effect it would have on me, and apologised in that sense, but nothing happened to him. The Anglicans wouldn’t deal with Walters at all because he was in the process of moving to the Catholic Church.’
The Anglican Church provided Irene with access to a counsellor, who she found to be satisfactory, but nothing more.
Later, after media coverage of Walters (now Father Walters), she contacted the Catholic Church to report him.
‘I went to a meeting and had to face Walters. It was a private meeting, all very hush hush. The first thing he did was to come up and literally stand over me, it was very intimidating. The purpose of the session was supposed to be so I could tell them what had happened and challenge Walters, but I got the sense they thought I’d been a crazy young person, so what did I expect them to do? That’s all I walked away with, it was like I wasn’t believed.’
In the late 2000s, Irene contacted police and was told it was likely she was not the only victim of the two men.
‘The police were great, took it seriously. They’ve been great, but both cases have stalled, and Walters is still preaching, in a cathedral. If that’s not supporting him, I don’t know what is, he should be suspended without pay.’
Irene said the responses from both Churches have inflicted greater emotional damage than the sexual abuse itself.
‘It’s probably not what happened, but how it’s been handled ever since, that’s been the really hard bit for me. I don’t have kids, I’m not married. They’re the biggest things I’ve wanted in life. All this process has affected my ability to do that.’