‘If you look at me from a distance I’m someone who’s had a seemingly good upbringing with a good family and good education and good opportunities who squandered them. Even I’ve thought, “Why?”’
Kai started smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol when he was 11 years old and still a student at a Marist Brothers school in Canberra. He has spent much of the past 17 years in jail for drug and drug-related offences.
‘And I'm one of the lucky ones ‘cause I actually got an education’, he said.
He started attending the school in Year 4 and had a lay teacher who he really liked, but he said the Brothers instilled a fear in the boys from the very beginning.
‘The Brothers would roam the hallways with their black rope ties around their Marist Brother uniform and their cross hanging around. We were taught to not only respect them but also fear them.’
One particular Brother would monitor the hallways, stopping boys for mucking around or being late for class, and caning them on the spot.
Once Kai started Year 5 in the mid-1980s, with a Brother teaching his class, the discipline moved into the classroom.
‘The discipline came in the form of what I now know to be bondage … I was never subjected to actual sexual abuse but the discipline came in the form of this.’
Kai described how the Brother would call a few boys up to the front of the class, make them pull their pants and underpants down, stand facing the blackboard and bend over the teacher’s desk, leaving their bottoms exposed to the class and their genitals exposed to him.
He would walk up and down the row of boys while deciding what punishment to use, a process that Kai described as inducing ‘bone-chilling’ fear.
‘Sometimes he would walk along with his rope tassel, sometimes he would use what he called his black magic, which was a leather strap. Other times he would pull out what he called a paddle. I remember the fear running through my veins … just feeling sick.’
Sometimes the Brother would use his bare hand to beat the boys and, Kai said, ‘the worst part is he would rub your bum before he would whack you’.
The humiliating and degrading experience continued for the year that Kai was in that class. The boys never talked about it or complained, knowing that they would get further punishment if they did.
In the early 90s Kai’s family moved to Queensland and he transferred to a Marist school there. This is where he came into contact with a sports coach who was an ex-Brother. In the first week, the coach took Kai out of class to his private office, where he made him undress.
‘He made me drop my shorts and basically just circled me, looking at me. I remember he stopped behind me and felt my shoulders and down my back … It was under the guise of just checking you out.’
Kai said the coach would regularly watch the boys shower, and they all found him very creepy. He was not surprised when he later found out the coach was a notorious paedophile and had already been banned from the Marist Brothers and reassigned to that school as a lay teacher.
‘Before or after the game his job was to be there to instruct us or gee us up, that was his job. As a paedophile he had a great job.’
A few years after the coach had been released from prison on child sex offences, Kai ran into him in a shopping mall.
‘I knocked him out. I confronted him. By that time I’d been to jail twice, my tolerance for paedophiles is zero and he looked at me with that same glint in his eye that he used to when I was 15 and I knocked him clean in the jaw. I wouldn’t call myself a violent person but that day my blood boiled.’
He also found out recently that the Brother from his Year 5 class was imprisoned for child sex offences.
Kai has had counselling for drug abuse, domestic violence and relationship breakdown, but he has kept what happened to him at school a secret for 30 years. He said he has never felt able to trust anyone enough to talk about it.
‘My fear of authority and my respect for authority is zero and it probably in hindsight maybe extends back to that … I attended university and I was quite successful in a number of areas in my life but drugs have pulled me back into the jail system time and time and time again and I’ve never really known why.
‘I have become very good at putting on a brave face and that tough exterior.’
Kai told the Commissioner that when he gets out of prison this time, he will seek counselling to deal with the trauma he experienced as a child.