Eight-year-old Joshua saw the older boys heading for the back paddock and decided to follow. He’d only just arrived at the orphanage and was both curious and keen to fit in. The older boys quickly spotted him and called him over.
‘Somebody said, “You haven’t been initiated yet”, that was the word they used. I didn’t even know what the meaning of the word “initiated” was … They said, “Come on, you’ve got to come with us”.’
They took Joshua into a shed where a young calf was resting in its pen.
‘They grabbed me and they pulled my pants down and pushed me up to the thing. They had a pitchfork with a broken handle on it and they pushed it up behind my backside.’
The boys jeered as they tried to get Joshua to perform sex acts with the calf. In the process the calf defecated. The boys ran off, leaving Joshua covered in muck. He spent some time trying to clean his clothes then walked back to the dormitory.
Brother Walton caught him on the way in and yelled at him for being late. When Joshua tried to explain what had happened, Brother Walton whipped him with a cane. ‘Every time I went to say it’, Joshua recalled, ‘I got another cut’.
Freshly bruised and still covered in muck, Joshua finally reached the dormitory. There he met Brother Coleman, the dormitory master, who chastised him for his filthy clothes. Again Joshua tried to explain and again he was beaten.
It was a fitting initiation for the abuse that was to come.
The home was run by the Marist Brothers and located in New South Wales. Joshua arrived there in the early 1960s. His mother had put him into care to protect him from his violent and mentally unstable father. Sadly, at the boys’ home Joshua received neither care nor protection.
Sometime after his ‘initiation’ he was summoned to Brother Walton’s office. Walton told him to sit down and then slid his hand into Joshua’s pants. Joshua pulled away and left the room. Two days later he was ambushed by one of the older boys and forced to give him oral sex.
Joshua believes that Brother Walton sent the boy to punish him. The boy had clearly been abused himself and was afraid of Walton. While he was abusing Joshua he kept saying, over and over, ‘Better you than me. Better you than me’.
In addition to these abuses, Joshua was molested many times by Brother Coleman and forced on many occasions to masturbate some of the older boys. Brutal beatings soon taught him not to resist.
Joshua never doubted that what the Brothers were doing was wrong. At age 18, shortly after he’d left the home, he reported Brothers Walton and Coleman to the bishop. Joshua did not give the bishop his name but said that he would reveal it as soon as the Brothers’ crimes were made public. In the months that followed he waited for an announcement from the Church but none came.
A few years later he reported the Brothers to police. Again he withheld his name, saying that he’d happily go public if other victims came forward. He never heard back from the police.
Years passed. Joshua moved from one dysfunctional relationship to the next. Wracked by constant fear, he attempted suicide twice.
‘The second time I tried to poison myself. I just couldn’t cope. I wanted love, I needed love. I needed some sort of a relationship. I just never seemed to be able to do it right.’
Eventually he married, but the relationship was fraught with problems.
‘In the moment that she would be aggressive or directive to wanting to have a sexual relationship with me I’d clam up and she found that hard.’
Joshua never felt he could tell his wife about the abuse. She discovered the truth eventually after he’d disclosed to a counsellor. This made her angry at first, then suspicious.
‘She went and took my daughter away and had her sexually examined to make sure I hadn’t interfered with her, and never told me about it. I just got more and more upset and ended up having a breakdown.
‘I loved her unconditionally even then. I’ve still got a good relationship with her now. She’s remarried. But I would have still been married to her, I believe, if we would have had some counselling at that time.’
Prior to his divorce, Joshua had asked the Catholic Church to pay for counselling for him and his wife. They agreed only to pay for him.
Making the best of a bad situation, Joshua took the Church up on its offer and participated in two or three sessions with the Church’s counsellor. It was a disaster.
Towards the end of one session Joshua asked the counsellor if he could get an apology from the Church. The counsellor went away, discussed the matter with one of the Church’s experts, and came back with this:
‘He said, “This sort of thing didn’t happen back in the 60s”. And that was the end of that. I just broke down. I’d just been pouring out my heart for about three hours to this bloke and I literally felt like I’d been gutted again. I was having nightmares, I had a breakdown after that.’
Joshua booked himself into a hospital. With the help of proper counselling, he’s been steadily rebuilding his strength ever since. Recently he reconnected with police and commenced legal action against the Church. Telling his story to the Royal Commission was another step on his path to recovery.
‘I’ve been over and over this. It’ll be a relief today for me. It really will. Because nobody’s ever taken me seriously.’