Matt was born in the early 1960s. His mother was a single parent with no family support. She managed to hang on to Matt till he was four, when he was fostered out.
After six years his mother remarried. She asked Matt if he wanted to move back in with them. He said yes. Matt now became a witness to his parents’ drug abuse and regular bouts of domestic violence.
One day he came home from school to find his mother in a deep sleep. He couldn’t rouse her so ran to tell their neighbours.
They made him wait a while then sent him home. His mother had died. However, soon after a woman called Angie Brand visited, and said his mother would be in hospital for a while. He now had another choice – return to his foster parents or stay and wait for his mother to get better.
Matt chose to stay. He didn’t realise he’d just chosen to stay with a spiritual community where his stepfather and Angie Brand were senior members.
In what became a pattern in the community he was moved into a new home. He also met a woman called Sally Jones, who turned out to be their spiritual leader.
Matt was given pills that made him drowsy and unfocused. Why did he have to take them? Because Jones wanted him to. ‘It was like a monarchy. Everything came from Sally Jones.’
He was moved again. This time into Dr Timberley’s house – a big place with lots of kids. Timberley was the community’s psychiatrist. ‘We were given a handful of drugs every day and told to take them but I never saw a physician.’
He wrote in a statement: ‘As a child living in Timberley’s house it was common knowledge and the expectation that orders from Timberley and Jones were to be followed strictly, and that the adults enforced and administered discipline and drugs’.
He got used to seeing pill bottles, syringes and other medical equipment around the house. They were used on ‘so-called patients’ every day. ‘They were coming in for things called healings or clearings.’
At school Matt had to fight to stay awake. He had trouble thinking and making judgments. No one at school noticed anything wrong.
One day, ‘Timberley took me to a room and he said, “I’m going to tie a scarf on your head”, and he told me what he was giving me. And he said “You’re going to see some pretty lights”.
'I began having auditory and visual hallucinations, and I just couldn’t see or hear anything. Except at some stage I felt pressure on my body in different parts, my abdomen and back … When the effect of the drugs were going away he came back into the room and told me I’d been an American senator in a previous life.
'And then for the next several days … I bled from the anus. Now, I’m not quite sure what he did, but in retrospect I knew I didn’t have a problem before that … I can only conclude that there was some sort of sexual abuse.’
Matt got no treatment for the anal bleeding and didn’t mention the abuse to anyone.
After several months he was told that his mother wanted to see him but that she wasn’t allowed in the house. His mother told him that Jones had forbidden her from living with Matt. He had to stay with Timberley.
Later, ‘Brand told me that I was very special and would now live with [the community]’. Matt was shifted to yet another house. Everything ran with military precision. ‘You didn’t dare disobey … A little bit like very old-fashioned Catholicism.’
When he was 13, he was sent overseas. His mother, petrified by the community, signed the required forms. Matt lived overseas for three years with other kids from the community – and with no financial support. He was sent to school and to work. He often went hungry.
When he was 17, ‘I came to realise that I could leave, as I hated [the community] and its practices, and the harm they had caused so many others’.
He came back home, knowing that legally the community had no hold over him. Jones rang him but because his family weren’t wealthy or influential there were no real consequences.
Matt has no records from his childhood and a trail of different names. He lives alone. Relationships are difficult. People tend to back away when they hear his story.
In the early 1980s Matt went to see a lawyer about compensation, who said, ‘I’m surprised you’re not a raving homosexual or in jail’. He got a similar reaction from psychiatrists. He was put on anti-depressants but stopped taking them as they only masked the symptoms. Matt now has a good counsellor who listens to him.
He reported the community to the police in the early 1990s but didn’t mention the sexual abuse. A later complaint about Timberley didn’t lead anywhere. Timberley denied that Matt had ever been a patient.
‘I want to get them investigated, I want to get a bit of justice for myself and other people … I guess the succession is from victim to survivor to being victor.’
Matt would like to see a vast improvement in the police and social services. And more resources for them to do their jobs.
‘This country’s got a disgusting history when it comes to child abuse, the stolen generations and everything else ... But there’s a chance now ... It’s a start … and the most disadvantaged people in this country have at least been apologised to.’