Julie's story

It seemed strange to Julie that when parish priest Father Perry visited her family in regional New South Wales, he often asked her seven-year-old daughter Belinda to dance for him. Julie also noticed the priest would play ‘tickling games’ with her daughters, but never seemed to include her son.

‘My husband was away for work a lot and from [the mid-1980s] Father Perry was coming over sometimes five nights a week, and at the time I thought he was being kind and supportive. It occurred to me something could be going on with the girls, because something didn’t seem right. My husband and his … siblings were raised by devout Catholic parents, and he was horrified when I raised my concerns with him so I let it go and never mentioned it again. Now I don’t know how to forgive myself for not protecting them.’

Julie told the Commissioner that Father Perry offered her and her husband work within the church grounds, and – she now knows – would abuse her children at every opportunity. The abuse occurred in the family home as she cooked dinner, at the presbytery while she cleaned, and on church family picnic days to the beach where he’d take little girls from a number of local families into the deep water.

‘Always the girls, and never the boys. They’d be in there for hours, I was so naive and of course now I realise he was abusing them right under my nose.’

In the 1990s, Julie received a call from her daughters’ school asking her to collect Belinda, who had been an aspiring singer.

‘I asked what was wrong and the principal told me she couldn’t stop yodelling. When I picked her up I saw her eyes were glazed over and I worked out she’d taken some of my prescription pills. That marked the end of any hope for a singing career and the start of a long, downward spiral with drug addiction.’

Around the same time, Father Perry left town.

‘All of a sudden he was sent to the other side of Australia but I still received letters from him or sometimes he’d turn up at the door to see the children, and when he left he’d always say, “Don’t tell anyone I’ve been here”, and I’d say “Of course not, Father”. I was so stupid.’

Several of Julie’s daughters received compensation from the Catholic Church, but the process had led to difficulties between them.

‘They all received the same amount, but one had to pay higher legal fees and ended up with much less than the others. Now she feels bitter towards her sisters and that’s caused me a great deal of distress.’

‘There are no Christmases, no birthday celebrations anymore, our family’s been absolutely destroyed by the actions of one man. Two of my daughters blame me for letting it happen, they won’t speak to me. I’m devastated, but I tell my children my front door is always open to them, and I live in hope that one day they’ll each find their way home.’

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