‘It took a lot to get me here’ Lucas told the Commissioner. ‘It took me 50 years.’
Lucas grew up in the 1950s on his family’s property in a New South Wales farming district. They were doing well and Lucas’s father made generous financial contributions to the local Catholic Church.
Lucas went to the Catholic primary school where the young teaching nun was very cruel and physically violent. ‘She belted the shit out of me and everybody else.’
On weekends, Lucas was an altar boy. After mass Father Foley would let the other altar boy go and take Lucas to the sacristy. There he would rape him.
‘But the worst thing he did. He used to smoke these cigars, [big] Cuban cigars … and he used to smoke them when he was penetrating me. And then he’d say “I’m gonna brand ya” and he’d brand me, burn me with his cigar.’
This abuse started when Lucas was eight and continued for a year or two. Foley didn’t threaten Lucas to stay quiet because he didn’t need to. Lucas remembers that priests had a lot of power in those days, particularly over young kids. Foley would even say to Lucas ‘These cigars, your father’s paying for them’.
‘I didn’t know it was a crime. You knew bad from good whether you stole a bit of fruit off the fence but you didn’t know these sorts of crimes. I’m only eight years of age’ he said. ‘It was uncomfortable and everything but you lined up next week to do it again.’
One time his mother asked him about the marks on his bottom and he said had fallen off his bike. She didn’t say anything but he realises that being a nurse she would have known he was lying. ‘But she didn’t put two and two together.’
Lucas later boarded at a Marist Brothers high school. The worst part was when the boys did their homework for two hours each night. This would be supervised by prefects who would send boys outside for almost no reason. In the ‘quad’ was a Brother, waiting, who would whip the boys. Lucas ‘sat there pretty quiet’ but was traumatised by hearing this abuse going on. ‘That had a damaging effect on your homework. You’re trying to do a bit of homework and there’s a kid outside getting bloody flogged.’
Another Brother would conduct one-on-one sex education classes in his office. He asked Lucas if he had been circumcised and wanted to have a look. ‘He started fiddling with you and … then I had to see him once or twice a week after homework.’
Academically, Lucas was not doing well. He was better at sport but the sexual abuse even affected that. At 15, when his father saw his report card, Lucas was taken out of school and put to work on the land.
When asked about the impacts the abuse had on his life Lucas said ‘It wears you out’. He likened it to a boxing match.
‘When you get in the ring and you’ve got to go 12 rounds. In each round you get a blow. And by the 12th one you’re still standing up and you lose the fight on points. As I’ve got out into the real world I didn’t get sexually molested but I got abused other ways.’
As an example, Lucas’s supervisor gave him an adult’s job but on kid’s wages. ‘By the time you get knocked around for 10 years there, by the time you get to here you’re not the bloke you should be.’
Lucas didn’t turn to drink or drugs. His greatest releases were playing sport, which he still enjoys, and his ‘number one love’, the dances that were held on the weekends. He would travel for miles to attend them.
A few years ago, Lucas went to Towards Healing, who investigated his claims. They acknowledged there was a problem and have supported Lucas by paying for counselling sessions. He has recently engaged a lawyer with regards to a compensation claim.
‘I’ve been pretty lucky with the help that I’ve got. Quite professional … I’m 68 and I tell you what: I appreciate every bit of help I can get at this time. And I want to get it out in the open and then get on with my life.’