Kevin John's story

Kevin’s parents and elder siblings emigrated to Australia in the late 1940s, one of few groups permitted to do so in an era where people of non-European descent were discouraged from entering the country.

‘It was hard to get in because of the White Australia policy’, Kevin said. ‘When I asked my father why he chose to come to Melbourne as opposed to anywhere else – he was a mad horseracing nut and he’d heard of the Melbourne Cup, so of course he came to Melbourne’.

Kevin’s parents were devout Catholics and the family regularly attended mass. They also had an altar in the home at which they’d kneel each night and say the rosary. As a primary school student, Kevin became an altar boy and over a period of about 12 years, was repeatedly sexually abused by parish priest, Father Turner.

Turner’s pattern of abusing Kevin and other altar boys was overt and he would molest boys ‘during mass, before mass, after mass’.

‘He loved touching, you know like standing behind you’, Kevin said. ‘If you can imagine someone standing one centimetre behind you and arousing himself, he’d often do that just before going out to mass. You know, those poor buggers taking communion out of his hands, yuk. But that was a common pattern and you know I think about his mindset. You think of doing that in an isolated scenario alone okay, but doing it with say 300 people just two metres away from you, five metres away from you, it must have been the risk-taking that drove him.’

One day Turner told Kevin he needed to teach him about sex, and in the presbytery he masturbated and ejaculated on him. He then wiped himself down with an altar cloth. The abuse also occurred on a trip interstate where Turner gave Kevin and other boys alcohol, made them play strip poker and then ‘systematically interfered’ with them ‘in different ways’. The boys didn’t speak openly about the abuse and Turner told them individually they weren’t to say anything about it.

In secondary school, Kevin attended a Christian Brothers college where one of the Brothers would sit and watch boys in the communal shower, becoming upset if anyone blocked his view. Another Brother once called Kevin into his office and told him to draw a picture of a penis. In both cases, Kevin suspects the Brothers were masturbating under their robes. Physical punishment was severe in the college and Kevin thought it likely at least one of the Brothers – ‘a sadist’ – derived sexual pleasure from inflicting pain.

Throughout his years of education, Kevin struggled academically, failing many times including at tertiary studies. He gave the outward appearance of success, he said, and was now married, with children and a successful career, but he felt a constant struggle in fighting feelings of hopelessness and failure.

At various times in his life, he’d drunk heavily, gambled his wages ‘from week to week’ and ‘had so many car accidents’ that it was ‘a miracle’ that he was here. He’d attempted suicide and had ‘countless broken relationships’.

‘Why am I still here? Why have I not unravelled? I think it’s because you know, if there was one quality my father had, he was stubborn and it’s the one thing I’ve inherited. Pig-headedness. Stubbornness. So I will not go down without a fight. I will be broken and battered but I will not give up.’

In the 1990s, Kevin reported Turner to Victoria Police and the priest pleaded guilty to child sex offences perpetrated against Kevin and a number of other boys. He was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

Then in the early 2000s, Kevin applied for and received payment through the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program. ‘I can’t say it was particularly pastoral and caring. I was awarded the princely sum of just over $20,000. To say it was manifestly inadequate is an understatement.’

Kevin told the Commissioner he considered Turner ‘accountable for his actions but not to blame’.

‘I have no doubt that his upbringing led to his paedophilic tendencies. I thought seeing him convicted would give me closure, but it has not. I desperately want to be able to like myself. Every now and then I get a tiny epiphany where the self-hatred goes away but these turn out to be mirages and the voices of self-loathing return with a vengeance.’

One of Kevin’s strongest memories is of Turner refusing to call him by his name, instead conferring ‘racist little terms’ upon him.

‘It was as though my identity had been stolen from me and replaced with something worthless, demeaning and degraded. Even today I feel self-conscious when I have to say my name in public. But I have a name and I’m proud of my name, and I won’t let anyone else take that away from me.’

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