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Jez's story

It was a confusing time for Jez when the only adult who had ever shown any care or tenderness towards him, Father Gabriel, ‘got me drunk one night and basically had sex with me’.

A state ward from the age of about six as his parents were very young, Jez was fostered with his baby sister until, ‘unwanted’ and unhappy about age 12, he began acting up and was put into residential care in inner city Sydney.

He ran away one day and wound up in Kings Cross. A counsellor at the Wayside Chapel suggested he meet a Catholic priest in another inner city suburb. Father Gabriel was kind and caring, and took Jez in on weekends when the boy attended navy reserve cadets where the priest also acted as a chaplain.

Sexual abuse by Father Gabriel, who also established homes for children and babies, left Jez with a mountain of anger. It began on his third or fourth weekend staying with the priest and continued for about six months.

‘He was the only person, since I was a little kid, who’d actually said they’d cared for me … so it was conflicting there for a while.’

Jez agreed he was kept locked down by loyalty when the priest suggested to him that their weekend relations were ‘private’.

One weekend in the early 1980s, Jez was on a cadet posting on a ship. ‘I went down to the medics basically because me arse was bleeding.’

One of the lieutenants questioned him closely. ‘I just said I’d been sittin’ on a cold deck ... I didn’t say anything to them.’ Then Gabriel picked him up and took him home.

Occasionally district officers from the Department of Youth and Community Services ‘came around asking if everything was okay’. Jez always told them it was.

‘We used to call ourselves govos,’ he said of his time as a ward. ‘You were owned by the government as far as we were all concerned. The district officers were basically considered the enemy by all the kids. They were the state.

‘That was probably where it broke down when I was a kid … They were the ones that were going to move you or take you away, decide where you were going. Basically, yeah, we used to give them lip service, and the faster you’d make 'em happy, the quicker they’d be gone.’

Later in life, Jez’s anger translated into violence, particularly after consuming alcohol. He faced a total of more than 12 assaulting police and resisting arrest charges, and spent several short stints in jail.

However, after seeing a man weaving through a Sydney park one night clutching a bottle Jez knew he was headed that way unless he stopped drinking. He did, obtained some TAFE qualifications, and moved interstate.

Jez’s first disclosure of Gabriel’s abuse was to an uncle who asked him whether the priest had been ‘playing with you and the kids’. This exchange with the uncle, who admitted he had also been molested as a schoolboy, ‘took a weight off’, Jez admitted.

He also recently told his father who was ‘not into detail’, but wanted to ‘go get him [Gabriel]’ – a futile gesture since the priest had died.

In any case, Jez was also angry with his father for making him a state ward. ‘He said, “I’ll come and get you” and never did. That took a fair while to, sort of, work out.’

Despite everything, Jez has been steadily employed since his 20s and is happy with his family. He has been with his wife for nearly three decades. Gabriel officiated at the wedding and Jez never saw him again.

He has never wanted to look at his government file, nor wanted any redress from the Church.

Jez has thought about visiting the site of the residential care facility where he lived until he was 12 but hasn’t yet.

‘It was a bit of a dark spot for me for a while.’

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