Lucien’s parents came from Western Europe, but lived in Turkey. By the late 1930s the family had moved to another Mediterranean country, before they migrated to Australia in the late 1940s.
Even though they spent the war years in Europe, the atmosphere the children grew up in was ‘harmonious. It was loving, caring … The moment we came to Australia that stopped. Completely. Our world was shattered’.
Lucien attended the Royal Commission with his brother Claude, who came along to support him. Both men experienced physical and sexual abuse throughout their school years, and racial abuse throughout their lives. Claude has been able to cope with these experiences better than his brother, and Lucien regards him as his ‘comfort blanket’.
When the brothers went to a local primary school in Sydney, they both experienced harsh beatings on the first day, and ran away. After the police found them and took them home, they never went back.
They attended two other schools where they were bullied for being foreigners, before being enrolled in a Catholic school run by the Marist Brothers. ‘And that’s where it all started to unravel.’ Both brothers experienced physical, racial and sexual abuse at the school during the five years they were there.
Teachers at the school ‘hid behind the façade of their religious outfits … They were very, very … sadistic … in their canes and so forth’. Lucien recalls being caned by one Brother, ‘every morning. Non-stop’. The boys were hit on their hands and on their buttocks and there would be ‘welts … enormous welts’.
Another Brother was quite blatant in his sexual abuse of students. ‘He’d be sitting … in front of the class and he’d call us up and we’ll be standing on the side of the table and he would literally … put his hand up our shorts and play with our, can I say it bluntly … testicles and penis … All the children were sitting right there, in front.
‘I’m quite sensitive, but naive, and when he used to do that quite often to me at first I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do, you know, because he was a teacher and if I am reprimanded … Eventually what happened was he put his hand up my shorts and so forth and I hit him … because I got sick and tired of it.’
Even though the students used to talk amongst themselves about the abuse, it was never reported to the headmaster. Lucien believes that if they had told their father, ‘he would have said, “Oh, you know, accept it and try not to become like them” … He would try to give it justification and, “These things do exist”, and whatever’.
Lucien told the Commissioner that the boys would be taken to the local swimming baths ‘for … a so-called swim, and what it was, the … baths was inundated … of all men, totally nude and we were confronted with all these nude men and all they were doing was trying to pick up young boys …
‘The period … when we should have been nurtured, to be educated properly, in academic achievements, things like that, were bought to a point of being harassed, abused physically, mentally, spiritually, and also you know, with this … sexually.’ Lucien told the Commissioner, ‘There’s a combination of things where I think all these things must be addressed and if they’re not, then we’re losing the boat on this whole aspect of … because it’s not just a church or an institution, it is society as a whole and … that’s what’s got to be met’.
In trying to make sense of all the forms of abuse he experienced, Lucien believes that because many of the Brothers were from Ireland, ‘they had suffered themselves, tremendously and the reason why they suffered was because of a very anti-Catholic behaviour, especially from the British. And you have this element, especially in this part of the world, that overflowed from overseas to here and you have this influence, and you can see the reactions of all these behaviours was going on …
‘The thing is … these individuals go into the institutions, religious institutions and go about and doing their acts … without meeting the responsibility of who they really are themselves. They, themselves, if we were to study them, would have problems too.’
Lucien told the Commissioner that ‘How [the abuse] affected me is the fact that I didn’t know who I was, what I was. I went through life enormously discombobulated as the saying goes … very confused … in every aspect. I didn’t know what direction I was going.’ Lucien tried a number of occupations before joining the priesthood, which ‘gave me a better understanding of who I was and so forth … It gave me stability. It gave me that’.
Lucien decided to attend the Royal Commission because ‘I got sick and tired of being abused … I just get tired of this abuse. I want to have a normal life, without the harassment … From the moment I stepped foot on this soil, I’ve been harassed. I’m tired of it. So I said, “Now I’m going to report it … I have to. To get it off me. To get it out of my system. I have to”.
‘I wish I had all this earlier, so I would sort of clear this. To me, it’s been eating me for a long time.’ Claude told the Commissioner that ‘it undermined the fact that the progress of what he could have achieved, had these things had not happened. And the thing is, even with me, the same thing’.