Luke told the Commissioner that he spent most of his childhood ‘jumping out of the frying pan into the fire’.
He was first abused at a Christian Brothers school in Melbourne in the 1950s. One day when he was in Grade 5 or 6, a priest kept him back after school and raped him.
After that, Luke ran away from the school and spent some time ‘going to museums and shoplifting’ until his mother learned of his absences and sent him to a new school that was run by Salesian priests and Brothers.
While playing football at the new school Luke was injured and sent to the infirmary. The priest who treated him was Father Sheehan, ‘a long skinny bloke with a pointy nose’. Sheehan returned later that night and put his hand under Luke’s bedclothes and sexually abused him.
‘He said “if you like that I can pop in again later”. And he did on the second night, and then as soon as I got the chance to get out of there I was gone.’
Sometime later Luke was moved to a Christian Brothers orphanage. ‘I was not there that long but it was the most horrid place I’ve ever seen … I never was touched there but I could see it happening all around me.’
In particular, Luke noticed many incidents of older children abusing the younger ones. ‘Monkey see, monkey do. I suppose they thought that was the normal thing to do.’
He escaped from the orphanage and stole a car ‘and probably got only about 200 metres in the car before I got grabbed and taken to the police station’. The policeman in charge of the station happened to be a relative.
‘He never asked me why, what for, or how, all he did was came down to the cell and beat the shit out of me. He said I had besmirched the family name.’
Luke was then sent to a government-run children’s home where he did not experience further sexual abuse but suffered other physical assaults and was given a poor education. He told the Commissioner, ‘You were too busy watching your back and behind you to be learning anything’.
After that he was moved to another Christian Brothers boarding school where he was abused by two priests.
‘Father Nicholas would sort of befriend you and when you’d run out of cigarettes he’d offer you one.’
At that time the school implemented a points system where boys could earn the chance to move from the dormitory to a small, private room.
‘But once you got enough points to go into that single room, that’s when Father Nicholas came along and wanted his payback for the cigarettes he’d given you.’
Luke told the Commissioner that Father Nicholas would touch and fondle the boys. As a result, Luke and many of the others deliberately misbehaved in order to avoid scoring enough points to be sent to a private room.
Another priest, Father Gerrard, was in charge of administering corporal punishment. Luke recalled that after enduring three or four whacks, ‘you could feel his hands, either running over the welt mark or touching you. And that felt worse than the strap’.
At 17 Luke moved straight from school into the prison system. By then the abuse had taken its toll. ‘I drank a lot and fought a lot. I was really angry. All I wanted to do was rip people’s heads off.’
He spent the next 10 years in and out of jail. Then, at 27, he had a breakthrough. ‘I thought “I’m starting to get institutionalised here. What am I going to do?” So I just got as far out of Melbourne as I could.’
Luke hasn’t been back to jail since then. Over the years he’s worked in factories, as a labourer and truck driver.
‘I sort of spent 40 years in solitude. I’d rather sit in a truck and do a lot of miles than be talking to people.’
Luke’s marriage had a rocky start, but he told the Commissioner, ‘We sort of battled our way through that somehow and it’s all quietened down now and I don’t think we could be getting on too much better’.
His main interests now are family and fishing. ‘Me little granddaughter would say “we’re in a fishing club”.’