Jeff Gordon's story

Jeff’s father was a truck driver. When Jeff was about eight, his father put him in his truck and drove from their home in Sydney, to north Queensland. Although Jeff asked his father repeatedly why he was taken from his mother, his father never answered him. He has only recently reconnected with his siblings after more than 40 years.

Because his father moved around so much, Jeff was virtually left to bring himself up. ‘Lived on the streets, stayed with friends, got in with the wrong crowd, same old story.’

In the late 1970s, when Jeff was 14, he was sent to a boys’ home run by the De La Salle Brothers, after two short stays at a youth training centre. He told the Commissioner that he experienced physical and sexual abuse at both institutions, but the boys’ home was the worst of the two.

‘They painted a picture like it would be a holiday camp almost … and I was given a choice by a judge in child’s court, either spend 12 months in [the youth training centre] or go to [the boys’ home], and to me, it was a no-brainer. I had to go to [the boys’ home].’

Jeff told the Commissioner, ‘I came to believe that sexual and physical assaults were accepted, a culture at [the boys’ home]. There were many new Brothers in my time. It seemed to be a dumping ground. There was a lot of talk that the house parents were in cahoots as it was so prevalent, almost every day’.

When he was at the youth training centre, Jeff cut his leg one day and was treated by the nurse. When he got an erection she said to him, ‘“I’ll help with that”. She masturbated me and put her mouth around my penis for several minutes. She got up, put a bandage on my knee. She had a big smile on her face, said, “There you go”, and walked out as if nothing happened’.

Jeff wasn’t sexually abused at the training centre, but witnessed boys being taken from their beds at night. ‘They didn’t come back for ages. I remember one boy being extremely withdrawn the next day, sitting on his own and refusing to do anything. Boys talked about the fact that sexual abuse was going on, and I was warned to watch out by other boys.’

There was a lot of physical abuse at the boys’ home. The Brothers beat them and encouraged the cottage captains to physically abuse the younger boys. Jeff recalled another boy being punched in the mouth and losing a tooth, because the Brothers believed he was going to try to escape.

‘On Friday night, boys would be pitted against one another in the boxing ring. You had to defend yourself, as you got a hiding if you did not put up a fight.’

One of the Brothers told Jeff to stay back after class one day. ‘He grabbed my testicles without warning. I panicked and pushed his arm away and said something … maybe, “No” or “Fuck off”. I was totally shocked as to why he did that … I was really upset, on the verge of tears and later headed up to the office to tell [the headmaster].’

On the way, Jeff ran into another Brother and told him instead. ‘He clipped me over the head, saying “I don’t want to hear your lies. Get back to class” … I didn’t know who to trust and I closed off from the other staff and boys. A week later I tried to run away with another boy.’

When he was caught, Jeff was caned. Six months later, he tried to run away again, and received another caning. ‘The cuts left big welts … that took ages to heal. [The Brother’s] attitude towards me changed dramatically. He became aggressive and humiliating towards me in front of the other boys. He would hit me for no reason.’

Jeff told the Commissioner, ‘They had too much control … too much power, mate, and no one to watch. There was no oversight, that’s the way I see it now, looking back on it … You’re talking about a Brother that is supposedly a man of God. Like, you don’t get anything more trusting than that, do you?’

Jeff estimated that half the boys knew what was going on, but ‘no one was game enough to do anything, because no one would believe us. You were a wayward boy. Who’s going to believe it? They’re Brothers … That’s just how it was back then. We weren’t all wayward boys. Some of those boys were put there by their parents … I just assumed all those boys were wayward. I didn’t even realise’.

When Jeff saw a television program about the Royal Commission ‘it brought the sexual abuse and violence out and made me deal with it. I am not ashamed or guilty, and know the … staff were responsible for many boys being molested and for the impacts on many of us, including suicides and criminal behaviours’.

Jeff has not been able to focus on anything else since he contacted a lawyer two years ago about compensation for the abuse he experienced. ‘It’s really taken over my life and changed it dramatically. I never really had a problem. Well I didn’t think I had a problem, until I seen the [television] program [and it] brought back a lot of memories.

‘That’s what’s worrying me, that I can’t get over it … I don’t know how to get around it. I don’t know how to get through it because I’ve seen psychiatrists, I’ve seen two different psychologists and things like that, and it doesn’t seem to get any better … I had a normal life two years ago … well, what I thought was normal.’

Jeff told the Commissioner, ‘I wish I’d stayed at [the youth training centre] and not gone to [the boys’ home]’.

Content updating Updating complete