After his mother fell ill and his father was sent to jail, Laurie was put into state care.
‘My earliest recollection was a policeman come down, grabbing me … I got away. Subsequently my sister was taken and seven days later they brought two or three other policemen down to arrest me.’
It was the early 1950s and Laurie was five years old. He was taken to a shelter with his sister, then a short while later the two siblings were separated and Laurie was sent to a boys’ home run by the Anglican Church.
‘It was a little bit tough. You’d hear guys come in the first couple of nights and cry their eyes out and carry on.’
The superintendent of the home was a man named Alan Martin.
‘A very tolerant guy, very understanding, good man. Alan was approachable at any time. Any time. His wife we referred to as “Ma”, because we didn’t have mothers. Ma was Ma, she was our mother. Not a very tolerant woman, but being an Englishwoman I got on well with her. I had no problems.’
But Laurie did have problems with Noel Phillips, one of the workers who was in charge of disciplining the boys.
‘If you played up in between or whatever reason you got into trouble, you were sent to Noel’s room and he would give you the sandshoe. The sandshoe was a Volley sandshoe with the sole. “Drop your pants, bend over”.’
Eventually Laurie decided he’d had enough of Noel and his sandshoe and refused to see him, opting to take the cane from Alan Martin instead. He said Noel ‘didn’t particularly like that, and from there I realised I was in trouble and I was going to be victimised by Noel so I maintained a farm from about 11 onwards’.
Laurie was given special permission to work a plot of land within the grounds. For the next four years he grew food for the home and for other children’s and aged-care homes nearby. The work helped him to stay out of harm’s way – most of the time.
The first incident of abuse happened when Laurie was about 14.
‘I was going to go in and get some fresh clothes and have a quick shower. Noel was at the top and greeted me. And as soon as I come up there he grabbed me by the chest and he – he used to often screw your nipple and so forth. Used to give me the horrors. But this time he dove down and tried to get my penis. And as he grabbed me sort of thing I’ve gone back and hit the wall and when I’ve come up I’ve come up swinging and I swung in and hit him where most blokes don’t want to be hit. Noel fell to his knees and I took off.’
Laurie immediately reported the incident. ‘Alan was sympathetic, he listened to me, he understood me, and he ended up sacking Noel. Immediate action. He sacked him.’
The second incident involved a staff member who tried to take Laurie up to his room. The staff member’s mate intervened, ‘and they ended up having a blue over it, so I didn’t end up having to report that per se. I didn’t have to, because they sorted it out in their own manner’.
Laurie left the home at 15, got an apprenticeship and embarked on what turned out to be a long and successful career. He had some struggles in his early years but said he was always supported by Alan Martin and his wife.
‘Open arms. “Any time, Laurie. Come on back”. The truth of the matter is, I actually got married in the home’s chapel. The association I had with Alan Martin and the respect I had for him was that great.’
A few years back, Laurie decided to get some psychological support and redress for the abuse he’d suffered. The decision came after a chat with his mate, Mick, who had also grown up in a boys’ home.
‘Mick said, “Oh look, you need a bit of help. You know, what’s going on?” I said, “What do you mean what’s going on? … I don’t want to go down that line. I don’t want to rehash the past”. But we did, bit by bit.’
Laurie got some counselling and began the process of applying for compensation from the Anglican Church.
‘It was a bit daunting. Emotional. I was arguing with my wife, you know: “I’ve gotta go to counselling.” She said “What for? It’s all in the past, forget it, move on”. I said I can’t because of Mick. Mick, I owed it to him before he passed. I told him I would pursue it. And he was a sick man, very sick. Cancer. Had many different types of cancer. I promised him I’d pursue it. And I did.’
In the end, Laurie received $75,000. He was grateful for the payment but said that what he would really like to see is a scheme to provide survivors of sexual abuse with long-term care.
‘Something like the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, what they get. In terms of being looked after. That’s more or less like the dying wish. If I was to speak on behalf of anyone that has passed – Mick and all the rest that are gone – that’s what they would have asked me to promote and push forward.’