Kirk remembers being ‘just a normal kid, probably a bit wild, but nothing out of the ordinary’, who would wag school sometimes to go riding horses down at the local creek. In the early 1970s, when he was 12, he began boarding at a Catholic high school in northern Queensland.
His mother and father were very hard workers, he said, and ‘‘cause Dad had no education, they sort of wanted for me to have a better education’. The college was over 200kms from his family home, and run by the Christian Brothers.
The dormitory master, Brother Clement, was a ‘grub’, authoritarian and brutal. Kirk became aware of Clement sexually abusing other children at night, and would hear them crying. Although ‘I think the whole place was aware of it’, it was never discussed between the boys.
Even now Kirk finds it very hard to speak about how the Brother abused him too.
After Kirk had spent a couple of terms at the school, Clement attempted to corner him in a shed. Kirk grabbed a nearby pick and raised it above his head, ready to strike.
The Brother became scared and fled. Kirk wishes he had killed him when he had the chance. Even now, ‘I could cut his throat with a smile on my face’.
Soon after this incident Kirk left the college, and attended a different Catholic school as a day student. He did not disclose the sexual abuse when he returned home, partly because his mother was a devout Catholic.
At 14 he finished school altogether and went to work in the family business. While his dad was alive they ‘were good mates’, and he still speaks with his mum regularly.
Kirk began drinking alcohol in his mid-teens, and driving unlicensed, which lead to trouble with the police. ‘I got in a bit of strife. Just authority, I just hate authority.’ In his 20s he was charged with drug supply offences, and sentenced to time in prison. Since then, ‘I’ve done a lot of jail’.
As yet Kirk has not reported the sexual abuse to police or the school, but he is now engaged with a legal firm to discuss his options. Since his initial contact with the Royal Commission, he had started to access some counselling.
This is the first time he has ever really talked about the abuse, as he had previously not been able to trust anyone enough to disclose it. He also finds that being able to speak with his counsellor over the phone, rather than face to face, is less confronting – ‘that’s the beauty of it. Is that I built up a trust with someone I can’t even see. I don’t trust anybody’.
Therapy has helped him ‘put a different perspective to things’, and to understand the impacts of the abuse may have influenced the path he took in life. ‘I always wondered why, ‘cause my brothers and sisters have never had a parking ticket, you know, and here’s me I’ve been all these years of jail, and I’ve always wondered why – why me?’
Kirk has always maintained a good relationship with his children, even during all his years in prison. He is hoping to be out on parole soon, and to try and stay out of prison. ‘I’ve got two grandkids now. About time I woke up to myself, aye?’