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Martin Michael's story

At eight and a half years old, Martin decided that he’d had enough of his stepfather’s violent outbursts. ‘I took a cricket bat to him. I was sick of his alcohol. I got sick of him yelling and throwing shit around … I was swinging. I wasn’t stopping.’

In the chaos, Martin hit his sister by accident. A short while later he was hauled before the courts, and classed as ‘uncontrollable’. Made a ward of the state, he was sent to a Catholic ‘special school’ in New South Wales. He arrived there in the early 1980s and stayed several years.

During this time Martin was sexually abused on many occasions by a staff member named Brother Bradley. Martin wasn’t the only victim. His best mate, Chris, and several other boys were also preyed on by the Brother.

‘If it wasn’t me it was Chris. If it wasn’t Chris it would be somebody else. He’d pick on somebody – he’d get at least three, four a week.’

Each time he inflicted his abuse, Bradley would finish up by threatening to send his victim to an infamously brutal ‘mental home’ if he ever spoke up.

Only one of the boys ever dared to risk this punishment. Martin’s mate Chris told his mother what Bradley was up to. His mother had a conversation with Bradley then returned to Chris and told him he was a liar. Chris was never sent to the home, but from that moment on the threat was redundant anyway: all the boys knew there was no point speaking out.

The abuse only got worse over time and eventually it got so bad that Martin ‘couldn’t take it anymore’. He went berserk and wrecked a classroom. As it turned out, the strategy was a clever one. Martin was expelled from the school and never had to see Bradley again. From there he spent some time in foster homes before ending up at a government-run boys’ home.

One night at the home, when Martin was in his mid-teens, he was sexually assaulted by an older boy who shared his dorm.

The next morning Martin came down to the kitchen late, still wearing his pyjamas. Mr Fahey, the chef, asked Martin what was wrong. Martin said he didn’t want to talk about it but the chef persisted.

‘He’s gone “What’s wrong?” I said “Nothing’s wrong. I’m just not going to school today”. He said “Don’t give me you’re not going to school today. You’re going up to get dressed”. I said “No I’m not”. He pulled me aside. He said – then when the kid walked past he seen me move to one side. He said “What happened? What happened last night?” I said “I don’t want to talk about it”. He said “No, you’re going to talk about it. You’re going to tell me”.’

Martin still didn’t give the chef any details of what had happened. He didn’t need to. The chef knew something was wrong and contacted staff who then took Martin to a nearby children’s hospital. There Martin spoke to a counsellor and disclosed the sexual abuse for the first time. Martin mentioned only the incident with the older boy. He ‘couldn’t get it out’ about what Bradley had done years before.

The official response to Martin’s disclosure was part failure and part success. On the negative side, neither the hospital nor the children’s home contacted the police and no action was taken against the perpetrator. On the positive side, the children’s home introduced some new protective procedures.

‘I was moved into another room and after that there was a worker on every – like even though we had caretakers up the other end at night, they actually ended up calling in a night worker to work between 10 till seven in the morning until the workers turned up.’

Some of Martin’s mates tried to introduce their own ‘protective measures’ in the form of a revenge attack on the perpetrator. Martin stepped in and told them to let it go.

‘I said I know what youse want to do. So do I but I’m not touching him because I ain’t going back to bloody – back behind bars.’

Martin left care for good when he was in his late teens. He quickly fell in with ‘the wrong crowd’. By this stage he was already a heavy drinker, now he added pot, cocaine and LSD to his list. Soon he began committing property crime, and soon after that he wound up in jail. When he got out he learned that his friend Chris had committed suicide. Martin said that he’s surprised sometimes that he hasn’t done the same.

‘I’m a survivor but I don’t know how. I tried jumping in front of trains, slashing me wrists, burning hands.’

One thing that keeps him going is a determination to see Bradley brought to justice. Martin recently reported the Brother to police and since then he’s vowed to keep pushing the case until he gets a result.

‘I want him charged. I want him to pay for what he’s done.’

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