In the 1980s, Lonny attended an Anglican high school in Brisbane. ‘When I first went there, it was the greatest place in the world; it was my second family, it was brilliant.’
In his early teens there was a family tragedy, and he was encouraged by the school to see its counsellor, Ronald Dalsey. Lonny was sexually abused by Dalsey ‘up to three times a week, for three years’.
‘The system that he had at the school, in hindsight, it rings alarm bells … He had an intercom system set up at the front of his office; there was a red, yellow and green light that came up. Now, green meant you could knock and go into the first part of his office. Yellow was knock, wait. Red was just “Bugger off, leave us alone”, and you can imagine what he was doing in those different lights.’
Lonny didn’t say much about the next 20 years of his life, only that he had ‘a long history of substance abuse’. What he now realises is that he completely suppressed his memories of the abuse.
Years after Lonny was abused, police began investigating Dalsey’s behaviour, and Dalsey killed himself.
‘As a very, very confused young man I got the news, and confusingly felt really upset and really sad that a teacher had died and someone who had supposedly helped me through a bad situation … the school, official, thing was that he had a heart attack and he died. They put on all the bells and whistles of a great, dignified man who should’ve been knighted, you know what I mean.’
Soon after, another victim of Dalsey’s took his own life. Lonny said that the suicide stuck in his mind, even though at that time he still had no memory of being sexually abused himself.
‘Like, for years and years I had an idea that something happened … but I never knew what. I remember having visions ... It wasn’t until 2010 that I knew what he did.’
In that year, two people Lonny was close to passed away unexpectedly. He said he ‘melted down’ and all the memories came crashing back.
When he told his parents about the abuse, they had their own memories of Dalsey. ‘They told me about other things that happened that I didn’t realise. Like, apparently he rung up Mum and Dad and asked me to stay the night or stay a weekend at his house, and they, not thinking of it, they said no, thank God. I know I’ve spoken to other kids who did.’
Lonny then got in touch with the school. ‘This is where it gets interesting … I tried to contact the headmaster and they palmed me off, they said, “This has got nothing to do with us”. I was pretty upset by that because that was where it happened … They put me on to Gordon Voss, who was the professional standards guy.
‘When I arrived … Gordon had pulled a file kept on me supposedly from the school. He immediately told me he had checked Dalsey’s diary and confirmed that I’d been seeing him three times a week for these three years. He also remarked on some newspaper articles about [Lonny’s sporting achievements] … and I sort of said to him, “Why would the school keep documents on me?” “Oh, that’s just what they do, they keep records of all their old boys”.
‘They knew I was high risk when I went in there, like, they’d known since Dalsey did it, they’d been keeping a file on me since it happened. They don’t keep files on every old boy, they couldn’t possibly, there’s too many people.’
When Lonny asked how many former students had come forward about being sexually abused, Voss said, at that time, there had been 60. Lonny then asked the Anglican Church to write to all the boys mentioned in Dalsey’s diary and ask if they had any information about the counsellor. The Church flatly refused.
Finally, after years of Lonny’s badgering, something was done. The Church put a letter ‘in all Anglican diocese school newsletters to say, if ever there’s been any “inappropriate behaviour” … go the police or go to whoever.’
Lonny knew exactly why the Anglicans had acted. By now the Royal Commission had begun, and survivors were coming forward about Dalsey.
The Church also offered him a ‘pastoral care package’, trying very hard to dissuade him from making a legal, and public, claim for compensation. So far, Lonny said, ‘I take the liberty of billing them for my psychiatrist’, but nothing more.
‘Financially, this has destroyed my past 20 years. I’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on drugs and alcohol ... I’ve worked my arse off for 20 years and I’ve spent most of my money on that. I believe I’m entitled to something but I don’t … I don’t want to let them think that they paid me off. I don’t want them to think that we’re even.
‘That’s what money will never pay for, it won’t buy time.’
For the past couple of years Lonny has been seeing a psychiatrist and is on ‘quite a lot’ of medication. As a result of his PTSD, he has been diagnosed with dissociative amnesia.
‘I go missing. I go missing for anything between three hours and three-and-a-half days. I’ll have no recollection of what happens … I come to and think, “Where the fuck am I, it’s happened again”.
‘On a third of the occasions I’ve been found to be … I’ve had drugs. I don’t recall taking them, and that sounds like a cop-out, I know. On one particular occasion, when I came to I had puncture wounds all over my arm.’
Six months after that incident, Lonny was diagnosed with a chronic illness. ‘I’m living with that as well, all because of some arsehole from 20 years ago and inaction of the institution.’
He’s also very conscious of the long-term impacts on survivors’ families. ‘It’s not just the abuse victim, it’s my mum and dad who, since I’ve told them, they’ve probably had their own suicidal thoughts. They don’t get the counselling from the Church, they don’t get all that; they get nothing.’
With Dalsey dead, the one person Lonny wants ‘brought to account’ is his former headmaster, Alfred Merner. ‘I still think that Merner needs to be investigated for knowing of what went on. He knew when he employed Dalsey that he was suspect, and he did nothing about it.
‘Dalsey was a sick bastard. You’ll never ever get rid of paedophiles out of the community, that’s an unfortunate part of human nature, they’re always part of our society. But you can put into place policies that will stop people like Merner.’
Even though he knew coming to the Royal Commission might trigger another dissociative episode, Lonny was determined to tell his story. ‘I don’t want in 20 years’ time for this to happen again, for a whole group of other kids to start remembering stuff and figuring out why their lives have gone down the wrong path.
‘All I wanted to do was to help people like me … all the people that were affected by it, because they’re the ones who went wayward at the time and everyone thought they were just bad kids. But they weren’t.’