‘It’s affected me more now to bring this up and then deal with it now. I’ve just plummeted. I think when you’re younger, you just put it aside and move on.’
For five years in the mid 1980s, Lachy was sexually abused by a parish priest, Father Brendan Keagan. They both knew the abuse would never be reported because Lachy’s father was violent and a heavy drinker, and if he found out he would have taken it out on the family. ‘We got belted as kids and so did Mum’, Lachy said. ‘If he knew I was getting abused, there would have been hell to pay.’
Lachy told the Commissioner that even though he’d now told his mother and siblings about the abuse, he ‘never will’ disclose it to his father because he didn’t want his mother ‘putting up with his reaction’.
Keagan would often stay at Lachy’s family home as the halfway point in visits around Victorian parishes. The priest began the abuse when Lachy was 11, after he’d encouraged him to become an altar boy. It also occurred on trips to Queensland when Lachy accompanied Keagan to ‘conferences’.
Only in later years did Lachy find out that his younger brother, Tim, was also abused by Keagan. Two years after Lachy’s trip to Queensland, an arrangement was made for Tim to go on a similar trip. Lachy went along to keep an eye on Tim, but in spite of his presence, Keagan still found opportunity to sexually abuse Tim.
‘We were so stuffed up as kids in a way because you’re in fear of your old man’, Lachy said. ‘And then we were getting abused. You didn’t want anyone else knowing. He groomed us, as much as I hate saying that.
'But these paedophiles, they’re pretty good at what they do. Here I am, protecting my younger brother who came along to Queensland and I didn’t even know what was going on. I mean, I look back now and think, "How didn’t I know?" But that’s how good this bloke was.’
At school, Lachy’s work deteriorated and he became withdrawn. After Year 12, he became extremely anxious, began binge drinking and often got into fights. He experienced difficulties with intimacy and sex, something that he and his wife are still working on.
As teenagers, Lachy and Tim had disclosed the abuse to each other without going into detail. Lachy tried to put it behind him, and didn’t tell his wife until 2012 after he’d started engaging with staff of the Catholic Church’s Towards Healing program. It was a process he found disappointing. Lachy went to a mediation meeting and was told he would probably get about $50,000. He took up the offer of 13 counselling sessions but when his therapist recommended 10 more, it was queried by the insurance company that represented the Catholic Church.
As a result of the meeting, Lachy received an apology from the bishop. ‘I know the bishop apologised [but] he gave me his number to call him and … I thought if he was genuine he’d call me or something, I don’t know. But I was supposed to get a report from them and didn’t get a report till a long time after that.’
After the meeting, Lachy expected some form of follow-up from Towards Healing staff but heard nothing further. No offer was made for financial compensation so he engaged a lawyer to make a civil claim. At the time of speaking with the Royal Commission, negotiations were continuing.
Finding out that Keagan had been moved between parishes in Victoria over many decades spurred Lachy to report his abuse to Victorian police. Keagan had died suddenly in 1995 but Lachy believed those still alive who had been responsible for hiding and shifting him needed to be brought to account.
‘Even though this priest is deceased, I still think they can still chase it with the fellows that knew, because in my eyes – aren’t you, if there’s a robbery or something and you’re an accomplice, isn’t it the same as the rest of these blokes?’
He told the Commissioner he was hoping to finalise matters with the police and lawyers soon. ‘I’m almost putting this thing to bed, so once it’s sorted with the lawyers, that is it. I can’t go through it anymore. I’ve got to start moving forward. It’s just one of those things.
'Again, dealing with this is affecting [my] work so it’s a juggling act, but I know in the last 12 months, two years, it’s been extremely hard. If I do my work no one would know what’s going on, but I’m really sensitive to it all, so the anxiety I get is almost daily now.
'I think, God, can’t I just get on with it? But I can’t. I don’t know why, I just can’t. Someone said to me it’s going to get worse before it gets better, so I hope I’m on the way up.’