Kirby James's story

Kirby was nine when his father left the family and his mother passed away. It was the early 1960s and the children were made wards of the state. Kirby was upset that some of his older siblings were fostered out while he and his brother Eric, were sent to a Marist Brothers boys’ home in Sydney.

The Brothers were very strict and Kirby remembers punishment being ‘over the top’. Still, he didn’t mind being at the orphanage overall. He became close to several other boys and they remain his dear friends today.

Brother Symon guarded the dormitories at night. He paid close attention to Kirby and Eric, and sexually abused them for three years.

Most of the boys knew about Symon's behaviour. ‘Everybody knew for years, all my friends amongst the boys.’

No one reported Symon to the other workers because it just wasn’t done. Kirby didn’t think that anyone would believe him if he told. Eric, however, was quite vocal about the abuse. Kirby remembers seeing Eric get into trouble a lot for speaking about it.

When Kirby was 14 he ran away from the home to take up an apprenticeship. He was able to find housing through the government and he was determined to care for his brother, who was acting out in the home.

After a year Kirby was joined by Eric, and was happy they were together again. ‘I was more concerned about him.’ They continued to live together until Eric passed away a few years ago.

It was around this time that Kirby, Eric and several other boys returned to the home to confront Symon. The police were called and Kirby remembers talking to an officer, but he doesn’t think a statement was taken. He believes that Symon was moved on to another orphanage and that he wasn’t charged for his crimes.

Kirby put the memories of abuse aside throughout his teens and adulthood. ‘I’ve blacked most of it out, I haven’t really spoken about this to anyone.’ He focused his energy on working and caring for others, especially his brother.

Eric had had many health problems and Kirby, who supported him throughout his teenage and adult years, was upset when Eric turned to alcohol for comfort. Eric talked constantly about the abuse until his death.

After his brother’s death Kirby sought support and disclosed the abuse to his counsellor. He spoke of his dislike of being ‘trapped’, which he believes is an effect of the abuse. He gets anxious in enclosed rooms and always chooses to sit by the door. He often has difficulty with saying 'no' to people. ‘I love life and I love people. My biggest problem is confronting people.’

Kirby engaged with lawyers regarding compensation and was disappointed that his case was not followed up by them. He hasn’t considered reporting the abuse to the police because he feels that it’s the past. ‘It’s so long ago … It won’t fix the problem … I don’t blame anybody for what happened.’

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