Kurt believes his parents had heard rumours about scoutmaster Graham Tunney. Just before 10-year-old Kurt left for a scout camp in the Queensland bush, ‘My mother turned around and said to me, “Just be careful. Sometimes he forgets he’s a man”. Back then I had no idea what that meant’.
Graham Tunney ran a scout troop based in south-east Queensland in the mid-1970s. He would rise through the ranks of the scouting movement for the next 30 years. When Kurt met him Tunney was a young man. ‘He knew exactly what he was doing’, Kurt told the Commissioner, ‘once you know the grooming process. What he would do on big camps – get to know you, try and befriend you and … he said, “Oh, I’ll take youse to the camp and youse can get any badge youse want”.’
Kurt was sexually assaulted twice by Tunney, late at night, inside his tent.
‘I never said anything. I just kept it to myself.’
Kurt’s relationship with his parents was difficult so he didn’t confide in them. And he felt guilty.
‘I just felt like I’d done something wrong, like it was my fault. So if I went and told anyone I was going to get into trouble …
‘I just became an introvert after that.’
Kurt didn’t have friends at school. He lost interest in study and left as early as he could. He describes himself as a ‘loner’. ‘I’d just go out on my own, ride my pushbike. That was it.’ Kurt has had difficulty with close relationships all his life. He has also struggled to stick with jobs for more than a year or two at a time.
As a young adult Kurt tried to reconnect with the scouts as a leader. ‘We were out in the bush with the boys on a little exercise. And I saw the two scout leaders and [Graham Tunney’s] name came up and they said, “Did you hear the rumours about Graham, that he likes boys?” … I didn’t say anything, but I never went back. It was obviously known for a long time what he was up to, but no one actually did anything.’
When he was in his early 30s Kurt responded to a police appeal for child sexual abuse survivors to come forward and report the abusers. ‘For some reason I thought, “Now is the time”.’ While Kurt’s experience with individual detectives was generally excellent, he feels greatly let down by the overall police and judicial system.
‘I went in and made my statement, because I hadn’t dealt with it myself before that stage … hadn’t spoken to anyone about it.’ A few weeks later Kurt heard from a detective that they had found Graham Tunney and that the investigation would proceed.
After that Kurt heard nothing for nearly eight years.
Another detective contacted Kurt and told him Tunney had denied all Kurt’s accusations the first time around and that police had decided not to keep going. But now a handful of other survivors had made statements against Tunney and the man had been charged.
‘I did ask at the time what would happen to him. And she said, “Probably nothing, because it happened so long ago”. Which made me pretty angry at the time. I thought, “What does it matter if it happened a long time ago?”’
Police stayed in touch with Kurt as the court date approached, but as the trial kept being rescheduled Kurt found it impossible to make travel plans to be there.
‘It was probably a good thing I wasn’t at court. With the sentence he got I think I might’ve jumped up and tried to grab him. I was just astonished … when I got that letter I was so angry.’ Tunney was found guilty but received a short custodial sentence, with most of it suspended.
‘There was no closure in it. It just seemed, well, what was the point? I was lost for words, I guess. I just didn’t think it would work the way it did.’
A few years after making his first police report Kurt decided to seek counselling to help him deal with the memories. ‘You just end up blaming yourself. I used to go over it – maybe if I’d done this, or maybe if I’d done that – just questioning yourself and your own actions.’
Kurt believes good counselling is necessary to break out of the cycle of guilt and blame.
‘There’s nothing I could’ve done to change what happened, unfortunately … I’ve done a lot of counselling, it’s been great, but there’s still times you think, “What if that hadn’t happened? Would my life have been better? Could I have achieved that? Yeah”.’