‘I feel like our family was set up by the Catholic Church. My mother was [very involved with] the Church … For some reason, this man got to come to our house … Mum trusted everyone, and especially the Church, and that’s probably why I never told her, because it would have broken her heart.’
Bob Walker appeared at the family’s church in New South Wales, and Julia feels that there was some link between him and their priest, Father Donnelly. She told the Commissioner that she also harbours doubts about Donnelly and has vague memories of being invited into the presbytery to have a scotch with the priest, thinking, ‘Why would you? I’m 12’.
Julia believes that Walker groomed her family. ‘He was a sleazebag … I suspected after his behaviour, that he’d set up a bogus company just to get us there to work for him, to be alone in an office.’ Julia was in her early teens when Walker gave her a weekend job in the mid 1970s, and she stayed for about three years.
‘I feel this person … used his influence and power to control, manipulate and trick into a false sense of security, groomed, used, abused and created situations where others could prey. He welcomed my friends … introduced us to marijuana, [and] sleazy, two-faced predators.’
Julia told the Commissioner that Bob sexually abused her on one occasion in the office. On another, he said that he could get her some modelling work and arranged an interview.
‘I couldn’t trust women after that. There was a woman present in the room.’ At the interview, Julia was asked to take off her clothes. ‘Who takes their clothes off for a modelling job?’ The male interviewer then lunged at Julia and grabbed his genitals, saying that he bet Julia would love to feel it. ‘I didn’t even know what he was talking about.’
After Bob asked Julia to come to a hotel to clean up after a party, she found him in bed with some prostitutes. He tried to get her to join them, but she refused and quit her job.
‘Is this the pressure you are to endure in the workplace? What you must expect? For many years I had a foreboding in anticipation of going to work. Every job, no matter what it was. Any job. Always feeling pressured, bullied and unable to perform tasks for any length of time. No concentration whatsoever.’
At the same time that Julia was working for Bob, her school arranged for her to do work experience at a local community health centre.
The groundsman at the centre, ‘had been preying on me and my girlfriend for years … He used to pop up everywhere … He was stalking us. I went there on work experience, totally depressed and misunderstood through all this stuff, mentally isolated, really bad, and being put down as the family problem. I think I was acting out, trying to get someone to find out’.
The groundsman approached Julia one day. ‘From what I remember, he said, “Let’s go out for lunch” and he drove straight to the national park and he said, “Let’s get in the back of the car” and I’m like, “What?” I don’t even remember the trip back.’
The next day, some boys from Julia’s school were walking past the health centre on the way to the pub. ‘I went with them. I went in and told [the centre staff] my grandfather had died … and then I went to the pub and I drank gin all day. I was 16 and they served us.’ She didn’t return to work experience after that.
Julia’s schoolwork deteriorated. ‘I was a star student … I was meant for greater things.’ One of Julia’s teachers wrote on a report, ‘“Julia was my best part-time student” and yet no one had ever done anything about the fact I never went. I was so distraught in Year 10 I didn’t even know I was sitting exams. I hadn’t even read a book’.
Julia has suffered from physical and mental health issues since she was at high school. ‘I could barely get out of bed. It was as if I was being a lazy teenager. I physically couldn’t get out of bed. I was actually physically very ill.’
Because she had done nothing at school for two years, her parents refused to let her continue, and she left after Year 10.
‘I was devastated. Socially isolated. Not ready to leave school at all … And my life has just been stuffed ever since … Met up with the wrong people, got involved in drugs, drinking … Ran into a tree … Took me 20 years to figure out that might have been a suicide [attempt]. And all the guilt and everything associated with that … So through all this, my life has been totally destroyed.’
Although she now has a successful career, Julia recently had a situation at work where she couldn’t stand up for herself. She thought, ‘“Why is that?” Because I’m afraid of being bullied … deep down, I have trouble being in control because of this deep inner fear of being bullied, abused, harassed … plus, [being] chased, preyed upon, I think, is the most horrible thing’.
Memories of her sexual abuse took a long time to resurface, and it has taken many years for Julia to tell her story. Now that she has remembered what happened, she would ‘like to be able to put [the past] somewhere, understand it, and file it. It’s been in my face every day’.
Julia told the Commissioner, ‘I feel so powerful. I thought I’d need Valium to get through this, but I feel so powerful, I thought, “No, this is the very time …” I don’t even take Valium, but, “this is the very time I shine”’.