‘We were what we call now, super-Catholics, because my mother was from a family – her two aunties were nuns and an uncle was a priest, so we had home masses, like we had none of that actually having to go to the church to go to mass. We had all these people in habits, and priests at the table.’
Father Doyle arrived in Juliette’s family’s country parish in Victoria and immediately set about changing the church. Pews were pulled out, the crucifix was replaced and new garments were made for him and altar boys while he ‘pulled the church apart’ and ‘modernised everything’.
‘We’d be at school all day and then we’d have to go up for these working bees’, Juliette said. ‘So in all that chaos he just got so much access. Wherever there’s chaos and something exciting happening – and that’s what I say – whoever is the new flavour has access to kids far more.’
Father Doyle was at Juliette’s home five times a week and over several years he sexually abused four of the children in the family. The abuse happened in the house, his car, the presbytery, at school and on a trip he organised with another priest, who it later transpired was a child sex offender.
In the early 1970s, Juliette became unwell and was isolated from the rest of her family in her own room. By then the abuse by Doyle had become so commonplace that she would never have thought to say anything about it, but one night her mother came into the room while Doyle was abusing her.
‘She knew’, Juliette said. ‘She yelled at him and he dropped me. I had been extremely ill and … I had had a lovely reprieve because no one was allowed in my room other than Mum and my grandmother. But no one else was allowed near me … So it was heaven for me because yes, I was very sick but I was sleeping soundly – no one was coming into my room. It was almost like a sanctuary. I kept thinking, how long can I be sick for? I got sick on my 13th birthday and around about Christmas he came in and that’s when Mum yelled …
‘I waited for a couple of days to get into trouble, 'cause she’d yelled and you’re not sure who she was yelling at. She yelled and was really cross, so three days went by, then a week and I still hadn’t been in trouble. I didn’t know where I was going to be marched off to, but I kept waiting for something really bad to happen because you think it’s you that she was cross with or yelling at. Two weeks later I was like, I got away with that. So I kept very on the low. People say, “Did you tell anyone?” Tell anyone? Like Mum was there. She saw it and I was waiting for some kind of repercussion. So, no.’
Juliette said the abuse by Doyle stopped after that. She didn’t know what was said or done, and her mother didn’t speak to her about it. This response was reflected in the wider community where it was generally known what Doyle was doing to children. One mother and father suddenly left town after their son had run from the presbytery crying and bleeding after being assaulted by Doyle, but no one acknowledged what had happened.
On several occasions Juliette had become suddenly drowsy after being given a drink by Doyle. She’s certain she was raped during these times. It happened once when she was with her sister on a camp and she went to sleep in one bunkhouse and woke up in a different one.
Another time she was staying in the nuns’ convent when Doyle was present. He gave her a drink with ‘a metallic taste’ and she doesn’t know how she got into her pyjamas or into bed, but she believes the nuns were complicit in Doyle’s abuse.
Juliette later found out that her brother and two sisters had been sexually abused by Doyle. On his death bed, her brother disclosed the abuse to their parents after refusing to be visited by a priest. Another sister, Elizabeth, had also subsequently died and in coming to the Royal Commission, Juliette wanted them both to be remembered.
In the early 2010s, Juliette and her sister, Maree, made a report about Doyle to Victoria Police. A police officer told them that the priest had died the year before. ‘I said, “Mate, that is the best news I reckon I’ve heard”. I don’t care how he died. He’s just dead. 'Cause he’s always there otherwise. I was so excited that day.’
After going to the police, Juliette and Maree met with the bishop who told them their mother had made a civil claim against the Church on their brother’s behalf. This caused great heartache as they wondered how and when their mother had done so, but they found out the information was wrong and their mother had merely written a letter of support once for another of Doyle’s victims. At the meeting with the bishop, Juliette told him that she’d been deeply affected by the abuse and had thought of suicide, but he didn’t respond. She later sought a counsellor independently in order to get support.
Both sisters were in discussions with mediators and lawyers as part of the Towards Healing process, but it had been difficult, Juliette said. Any enquiries they made to lawyers were met with a request to send through all their information in electronic form, after which a decision would be made as to whether the case would be taken on.
‘They don’t want to talk to you and then they’ve got your file. So they’ve got your business and you can’t talk to them to find out whether you even trust them to do your case, 'cause you can’t get in the door till you send them an electronic file … It’s a loop. You’re stuck in a loop. You can’t really get out of it.’
Nevertheless, they were persisting with the process and planned to meet again with the bishop. In their previous dialogue, Juliette had recommended to the bishop that he contact ex-students of the schools and communities Doyle travelled between. ‘That’s part of his job’, Juliette said. ‘Your job description is you need to be looking after them, whether or not they’re still attending Mass. We were all yours at some stage. It’s in your job description.’