Larry was the ‘fourth best fighter’ in the Catholic children’s home he and his siblings were sent to in the late 1940s. Taught by his mates to fight off boys who’d attacked him on the way to school, Larry - who was not yet a teenager - could beat most of the blokes in the home who tried to ‘stand over’ him.
The home was in Queensland, and was run by the Sisters of Mercy. One nun, Sister Durand, was notoriously cruel. Larry had been identified as ‘a good scholar’, but she refused to permit him to ‘do scholarship’ so that he could complete his education and fulfil his dream of becoming a police officer. ‘No, he’s going to work’, she said.
Sister Durand also ordered one of the ‘big blokes’ – Stevie Addison – to belt Larry each time he told her about the priests who had tried to molest him after he’d served at mass as an altar boy. Almost 70 years after the event, Larry does not remember the names of the two priests. They were ‘young priests probably from the nearby priest training college’.
When the first priest tried to molest him, Larry ran from the presbytery. ‘A nun said, “What are you running for?” I said, “The priest asked me to undress”, and she slapped me face.’
‘I ran out and told Sister Durand, and she said, “You’re going to get a flogging. He’s a Catholic priest. He doesn’t do that” … I got a terrific hiding. And she got Stevie Addison to belt me. He belted me for about five minutes. I couldn’t sleep that night because I was so sore from the belting.’
When Larry later told Sister Durand and another nun that a second priest had tried to molest him after mass, he ‘got another flogging’. ‘They both ordered Stevie Addison to belt me’, Larry said. ‘She said, “How dare you tell lies about the priests”.’
In his early teens, Larry was sent to a reformatory farm where he was flogged so severely by the superintendent, Mr Burns, that he was unable to perform his apprentice duties. Mr Burns used a strap ‘that was two inches wide and an inch thick … He’d dip it in the bucket of water and belt you with it, and you had to strip off naked, and he’d belt you with it, and four was the minimum’.
When Larry’s supervisor saw the infected welts on Larry’s body, he took him to a doctor who urged them to go to the police. Larry then reported Mr Burns, as well as the priests who’d tried to abuse him at the children’s home, but ‘there was nothing done’.
Larry was next sent to work on a farm south of Brisbane. While he was husking corn, the farmer’s son, Joey Carey, entered the barn, shut the door, and said ‘I’m going to have sex with you’. Larry jumped out the window and hurt his ankle. A neighbour gave him a lift to the police station and Larry told the police what had happened. Nothing was done because, they told Larry, ‘it’s your word against his’.
After a three-day recovery period in hospital, Larry refused to be sent back to the farm. Without locks on his door, he was scared that the farmer’s son would try to come into his room. After telling Larry to pack his port, a police officer instead took Larry back to live at the Catholic children’s home.
Once he left care, Larry eventually took a job that sent him driving across the country. ‘I liked it ‘cause I was on me own’, he said.
In the 1960s, Larry gave evidence against Burns during an inquiry into the reformatory farm which was later closed down. He never told his mother about the abuse, and only told his wife because he recently underwent a redress process in which he ‘only got a miserable 21 thousand dollars off the government’.
While recollecting his experience of abuse during his session with the Royal Commission, Larry broke down. ‘It’s affected my life’, he said. It turned him ‘away altogether from the Catholic Church’, and still gives him nightmares.
‘I wake up of a night when I’m asleep, and I wake up with a fright, and I think Stevie Addison’s belting me. I wake up in a dream.’
Now in his late 70s, Larry is still a fighter and defended his daughter from her violent husband. ‘He punched my daughter and knocked her to the ground, and I saw red.’